This opinion article provides a summary of 2018, an intense year, which I believe has laid the foundations for a change of economic, social and business model. I look forward to 2019 with optimism, as I believe it will be a year for the consolidation of many objectives and also a year in which barriers may turn to great opportunities. Without doubt, it will be a great year.
Growth is unstoppable. Growth in human knowledge was greater in the 20th century than in the nine preceding centuries. But growth in human knowledge in the first 18 years of the 21st matches that of the preceding 100 years. Society took almost 105 to adopt the telephone as a tool for daily use, whereas it took only 15 years to do so with internet.
This means that each passing year represents a “before and after”, because the knowledge acquired in those 365 days is sufficiently important to create a butterfly effect, which influences and conditions the society of subsequent years. Obviously growth cannot be constrained but we must take care not to grow irresponsibly. Hence the need for a change of model, the transition from the linear to the circular economy. 2018 was a year of intense work. Many legislative initiatives were undertaken this year, perhaps not so much in terms of legislation being passed but rather in terms of legislation coming into force. For instance, this year saw the ratification of the EU Circular Economy Package of which we have spoken before. In our opinion, it sets correct recovery targets, bearing in mind that not all Member States are starting at the same point. The Package also sets out how these targets must be accounted for and we expect that the harmonised calculation method will be published in 2019. As far as we are concerned, this method should make it clear what material enters the final recovery facility and what leaves as secondary raw materials, thereby indicating the quantity of unrecyclable material, which represents inappropriate material from the selectively collected stream. This is important because waste of quality is vital to facilitate recycling.
The prohibition of single-use plastics was also ratified. From 2021, single-use containers or products, such as cotton swabs, can no longer be produced. This is more a challenge in terms of consumption and social change than in industrial terms, although certain business models will obviously have to be reinvented. The obligation to carry out administrative procedures electronically also came into force. Fortunately, due to deficiencies in the communication channels, this was postponed for a further two years. Waste management technology is advancing at the same pace, in waste collection vehicles, container models with identification systems to facilitate Pay As You Throw, and even management systems that enable us to automate processes and make all things related to administrative procedures more efficient.
Victoria Ferrer Maymo
Director, Gremi de Recuperació de Catalunya (Catalan Recovery Guild)
Published in: Nº62 FuturENVIRO July 2019