Ambitious growth in the circular economy could cut unemployment in Italy, Poland, and Germany

Tuesday 1 December 2015
Dustin Benton Dustin BentonPolicy director020 7630

A new EU package of policy measures to develop the circular economy across Europe is released today. Think tank Green Alliance[1] has analysed its potential impact on the jobs market[2] focusing on three of Europe’s major manufacturing economies: Italy, Poland and Germany. It has found that, if ambitious, the measures could cut unemployment and save €3 billion a year. In these three economies alone, development of the circular economy at scale would help to tackle difficult regional and occupational unemployment issues and bring 270,000 people back into work.
The analysis identifies where new jobs, provided by stepping up resource efficient activities, would address local labour market barriers and reduce unemployment in Italy, Poland and Germany. It finds that:
  • •  In Italy, where there is huge potential to develop the bioeconomy – around food and biotechnology - two thirds of new circular economy jobs could be created in southern and island regions, helping to reduce geographical inequality.
  • •  In Poland, the potential is in remanufacturing industries, where jobs are likely to be long term. Poland currently has twice the EU average proportion of workers on so-called ‘junk’ or temporary contracts, making high quality, long term jobs particularly attractive.
  • •  In Germany, despite having the lowest unemployment rates in the EU, there are also opportunities to tackle ingrained employment inequalities between west and east. By focusing on developing services which allow consumers to use manufactured goods without owning them, jobs can be provided in eastern German cities where unemployment is comparatively high.  
Dustin Benton, head of energy and resources at Green Alliance, said:
“Our analysis shows that, by being much more ambitious in developing the reuse, remanufacturing and recycling industries,  significant social as well as environmental dividends can be gained. And these benefits can apply to countries across Europe with very different geographies, economies and labour market challenges. We hope that the EU measures presented tomorrow will require better product design, reward manufacturers which create products that are remanufactured and recycled, and reform markets for secondary materials.”
This the first analysis by think tank Green Alliance for the Alliance for Circular Economy Solutions (ACES)[3]. ACES is a progressive new collaboration of businesses and think tanks committed to ambitious circular economy policy in Europe. It is led by an influential group of British, Belgian, Dutch and German organisations which collectively reach businesses across Europe.
Nick Molho, Executive Director of UK business group Aldersgate Group said:
“This report is the latest reminder that there’s a compelling business case for an ambitious circular economy policy in Europe. If ambitious enough and backed up by concrete measures to rapidly grow the use of secondary materials, this upcoming package of legislation is a unique opportunity to boost the resource efficiency, competitiveness and growth of the EU’s economy. The Commission, Council and European Parliament must seize this opportunity.”
Martin Hirschnitz-Garbers, Senior Fellow at the German think tank Ecologic Institute said:
“There is a very promising potential for multiple benefits of fostering the circular economy. Thinking beyond traditional waste management job opportunities, health and environmental benefits, strengthening the role of waste prevention, re-use and remanufacturing of products, or parts thereof, will open up new, innovative business opportunities. It also has the potential to motivate employees to engage and thus to improve job satisfaction. Therefore, we hope that the revised circular economy package will be ambitious enough to bolster these potentials.”
Katharina Reuter, CEO of the German Green Business Association, said:
“What we need are binding targets to reduce resource use. Of key importance for us is that different targets for reuse and recycling are developed and established – notably on electronics, textiles and furniture."
Patrick ten Brink of the Institute for European Environmental Policy said:
“A transition to a circular economy will offer to keep more of the value of natural resources and materials within the economy and less lost to become waste. This can safeguard resources, avoid pollution burdens on our environment, and help create new jobs using new skills. For example, 300mt of plastic are used each year in the world economies, but around 10mt become marine litter that burden ecosystems, our coasts and waterways, society and a wide range of economic activities. More reuse, repair, remanufacture, and recycling will keep plastic’s value in the economy and out of the oceans.  We look forward to the European Commission’s imminent proposals to realise these opportunities.”

[1]   Unemployment and the circular economy in Europe: a study of opportunities in Italy, Poland and Germany will be available on the Green Alliance website from Tuesday 1 December
[2] Green Alliance is a charity and independent think tank focused on ambitious leadership for the environment. Founded in 1979 “to inject an environmental perspective into the political life of Britain” we have been inspiring and influencing change for over 35 years.
[3] ACES is a progressive new collaboration of businesses and think tanks committed to ambitious circular economy policy in Europe. It combines business voices with economic and social analysis on the impact of the circular economy. Using member state business networks, and with a Brussels-based policy focus, it is a unique and powerful new European advocate for ambitious resource efficiency circular economy policy.

ACES is led by an influential group of British, Belgian, Dutch and German organisations which collectively reach businesses across Europe.  It is working to secure a progressive European circular economy package that will be both environmentally and economically beneficial, by driving product innovation, secondary material use and new business models. The organisations involved in ACES are Green Alliance and:
  • •  The Aldersgate Group is an alliance of major businesses, professional institutes, NGOs and cross-party politicians that develops policy solutions to address environmental challenges in a way that is both effective and delivers economic benefits for the UK and the EU. It is based in London and its business members, which come from a wide range of economic sectors, have a global collective turnover in excess of £300bn. The Aldersgate Group is part of the EU Life + funded ‘Developing Resource Efficient Business Model (REBus)’ project and resource efficiency is one of the Group’s three policy priority areas.
  • •  Ecologic Institute conducts inter- and transdisciplinary environmental research. In its role as a private, independent organization, Ecologic Institute is dedicated to the preparation of relevant sociopolitical aspects of sustainability research and contributing new knowledge to environmental policy. Innovative research methods, an orientation on practice and a transdisciplinary approach ensure scientific excellent and social relevance. The work done at Ecologic Institute covers the spectrum of environmental topics and includes the integration of environment-related issues into other political spheres. Ecologic Institute was founded in 1995 and collaborates closely with other European and international bodies, including active participation as a member of the Ecological Research Network (Ecornet). Ecologic Institute is a registered charity and operates branches in Berlin, Brussels and Washington DC. Today, the more than 100 individuals at Ecologic Institute work in a variety of international and interdisciplinary project teams.
  • •  The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) The Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP) is an independent not for profit research organisation dedicated to advancing an environmentally sustainable Europe through the analysis and development of policy, and dissemination of research results.  We specialise in policies at the European level and their implementation at national level. We’ve been actively involved in studies and initiatives relating to several aspects of the circular economy and waste management. Recent interests include the bioeconomy, marine litter, the cascading use of wood, and selection of best package of policy instrument to enable a transition to a circular economy. We are based in Brussels and London.
  • •  De Groene Zaak is the leading Sustainable Business Association in The Netherlands, uniting over two hundred pioneering companies. We are the Dutch Chapter of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and a founding partner of Ecopreneur. All our partners hold to a clear business principle: transforming our current economic order to a sustainable and circular one as fast as possible. De Groene Zaak supports this goal by lobbying for fair competition for sustainable business, by putting sustainability issues on the public agenda, and by connecting sustainable entrepreneurs within our network. In addition, our partners create new opportunities among each other and through cooperation with the green-minded scientific network of Het Groene Brein, which provides partners with access to innovative new research and expert knowledge.
  • •  UnternehmensGrün – the German Federal association of green economy – was founded as early as 1992. Representing more than 140 members, UG campaigns for the protection of the environment and a sustainable economy. UG is a nonpartisan, non-profit and financially independent entrepreneurs association. Our members are mainly small and medium-sized businesses, who have a common interest in operating in a sustainable and responsible manner. They come from all different economic sectors – from engineering, metalwork or the renewable energy sector to business consultancies, advertising agencies, a brewery, law firms or driving schools.

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