Together, the publications will see a renewed focus on the circular economy at societal level, with Minister Ossian Smyth likening efficiency in how we use our resources like plastics or concrete to more familiar activities such as energy efficiency, with being both critical for the climate. Furthermore, the Strategy highlights the wider benefits of a circular economy, with social benefits including job creation, skills development and community building as well as economic impacts with the potential for €2.3 billion savings to be delivered in Ireland annually.
As Ireland’s first national circular economy strategy, the Strategy sets out five goals which support the main ambition of improving Ireland’s circularity rating. This will be delivered by providing an initial framework, focusing on raising awareness about the circular economy, increased investment and identification of key economic, regulatory and social barriers.
While the Rediscovery Centre welcomes the Strategy as an initial framework, there could be greater clarity on the connection between the circularity rating and targets in the proposed Circular Economy Bill, commitment to specific policy and fiscal measures to address known barriers and more reporting obligations and accountability to track progress and reflect a greater sense of urgency. For example, sectoral roadmaps are provided for in the next iteration of the Strategy in 1.5 to 2 years.
The focus on building a circular economy branding and the development of a circular economy platform within 12 months of the publication of this Strategy is welcome and much-needed as evidenced by recent research on public behaviour and attitudes relating to the circular economy carried out by the Rediscovery Centre. This research also highlights the need to reflect and respond to audience needs in any and all communication initiatives relating to the circular economy.
In parallel with better communications is the need for infrastructure and system development so the commitment to ensuring that all available policy levers – including regulatory, fiscal and procurement decisions – support Ireland’s ambition is welcome.
The implementation of the Strategy’s goals will be supported through the new EPA CE Programme which focuses on national level strategic programmes, improving knowledge and providing an evidence base to inform circular economy development in Ireland. The Programme outlines new priority areas including Textiles, Electronics and ICT and Batteries to align with the EU Circular Economy Action Plan 2.0. It highlights that in Ireland, we discard around 110,000 tonnes of clothing, footwear and other textile products as waste every year. We look forward to the development of targets for the EPA’s CE Programme in 2022.
The Rediscovery Centre currently partners with the EPA as the National Centre for the Circular Economy. Through our Education programmes and citizen engagement initiatives and through social enterprise activity and support academy we are facilitating communities to embrace the transition to a circular economy. This work is underpinned by evidence based research and is closely aligned to national and European policy ambitions and we look forward to continuing to add to the sectoral knowledge and development of roadmaps on key priority areas in support of this programme.
The hosting of Dublin Circular Economy Hotspot 2023, Europe’s leading event on the circular economy, will be an ideal opportunity to showcase the initial policy, economic and social outcomes of both the Government’s CE Strategy, and the EPA’s CE Programme alongside best in class public, private and social enterprise initiatives.