PEER Locations

SYKE - Finnish Environment Institute (Finland) DCE - Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, Aarhus University (Denmark) EC JRC - European Commission, Joint Research Centre IRSTEA - National Research Institute of Science and Technology for Environment and Agriculture (France) CEH - Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (United Kingdom) Wageningen Environmental Research (Alterra) UFZ - Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (Germany) CIENS - Oslo Centre for Interdisciplinary Environmental and Social Research peer

SYKE Policy Brief: Quantitative goals need to be set for reducing use of raw materials

09/30/2019, SYKE

A circular economy makes it possible to significantly reduce the consumption of raw materials. The advancement of a circular economy requires ambitious quantitative goals for the reduction of the use of raw materials, according to the SYKE Policy Brief that was made public today. Economic and legislative reforms are among the measures required for a transition to a circular economy. It is a good idea to target these especially at branches of industry that consume large amounts of natural resources, such as construction, the process industries, and the food chain. The Policy Brief will be distributed at the European Days for Sustainable Circular Economy conference in Helsinki 30 September–1 October 2019.

“Finns consume as much as ten times more raw materials on a per capita basis than a sustainable level would allow”, says Annukka Berg, Senior Researcher for the Programme for Sustainable Circular Economy at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). Consumption of raw materials in Finland was 29 tons per person in 2015, while a sustainable level has been estimated at 3–8 tons.

A circular economy allows for a significant reduction in the consumption of raw materials. “However, the current political steering system maintains a high level of raw material use. The system should be developed in a comprehensive manner for the needs of a circular economy”, says Senior Researcher Petrus Kautto at SYKE. “Legislation could be used to promote longer warranty periods and repairability for consumer goods and electronic devices, for example. We also need to establish which industries could be required to use more recycled material than they do now.

A circular economy must be based on research-based knowledge

The development of European circular economy policy is at a crossroads; on Friday this week the Environment Council of the EU will discuss the circular economy conclusions of the EU. The conclusions point the new Commission in the right direction for promoting a circular economy over the coming five years. Finland is in the spotlight both as the holder of the EU Presidency, and as a circular economy trailblazer. Finland became the first country in the world to draft a national circular economy roadmap in 2016. The roadmap was updated this year. Finland's new government programme includes many measures for promoting a circular economy.

“The SYKE Policy Brief makes recommendations based on research for the drafting of the horizontal, strategic circular economy programme mentioned in the government programme”, says Sari Kauppi, Acting Director of the SYKE Programme for Sustainable Circular Economy.

SYKE takes the view that comprehensive plans of action for a circular economy must be drafted for all key industries. These include industries that consume large amounts of natural resources, such as construction, process industries, and the food chain, as well as sectors of industry that use rare raw materials, such as the electronics, electrical, and battery industries.

Finland could learn from The Netherlands, where a goal has been set to cut the use of virgin raw materials, such as minerals, metals, and fossil fuels in half by 2030.

Transition to a circular economy continues to require considerable investment in research and development. More knowledge and research are needed on material flows and reserves, the ecological, economic, and social effects of a circular economy, and product and service planning that reduce the use of natural resources.

Further information

Senior Researcher Sari Kauppi, Acting Director of the Programme for Sustainable Circular Economy, Finnish Environment Institute, firstname.lastame@ymparisto.fi, tel. +358 295 251 268

Senior Researcher Annukka Berg, Programme for Sustainable Circular Economy, Finnish Environment Institute, firstname.lastame@ymparisto.fi, tel. +358 295 251 842

Senior Researcher Petrus Kautto, Programme for Sustainable Circular Economy, Finnish Environment Institute, firstname.lastame@ymparisto.fi, tel. +358 295 251 272

SYKE Policy Brief: A circular economy allows a significant reduction in the consumption of natural 

European Days for Sustainable Circular Economy, 30.9.-1.10.2019

SYKE Policy Briefs are statements targeting decision-makers and experts putting forward the point of view and recommendations of SYKE on a topical question in a concise and well-founded manner.