Tips on Circular Economy
New EU database for pollutants: Experts expect positive effects on the Circular Economy
„Companies supplying products containing substances of very high concern on the EU market have to submit information to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), as from January, 2021”, Environmental Expert Axel Dick and Occupational Health and Safety Expert Eckehard Bauer of Quality Austria explain. Waste operators can access this data to ensure that such substances are not unintentionally recycled and processed into new products. The information in the database is also available to consumers. The qualityaustria experts clarify what manufacturers and consumers will have to expect and how this will boost the Circular Economy.
The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) has established a long Candidate List of substances of very high concerns. „All articles placed on the EU market containing substances of very high concern in a concentration above 0.1 % weight by weight must be entered in the SCIP database of ECHA on an obligatory basis, as from January 2021”, summarizes Eckehard Bauer, responsible for Business Development in the field of Occupational Health and Safety of Quality Austria. The database can be accessed here. One example of many of these substances is the plasticizer diisobutyl phthalate, which can be found, amongst others, in dispersion adhesives. If it is used to glue cardboard boxes that are recycled into food packaging, the substance may pass to the food under certain circumstances and may be harmful to health. The SCIP database provides a good and quick overview of substances of very high concern (SVHC), especially for specialists such as safety experts who prepare risk assessments (workplace evaluations).
Consumers can use SCIP to adapt their purchasing behavior
Numerous actors are required to submit information: all EU producers, assemblers, importers, distributers, as well as other companies in the supply chain. Only exception are retailers who supply directly to consumers. The data collection has a number of different goals: Increased transparency helps consumers to make purchasing decisions, encourages the industry to substitute these substances with harmless alternatives, and subsequently contributes to a better circular economy. On the one hand, because this data is also available to waste operators, and on the other hand, because it can help to avoid these substances already in the product development stage so that they do not enter the cycle in the first place.
„The circular economy is one of the EU’s major projects. Therefore, companies should already start now to work in a way that is suitable for recycling and to give more attention to environmental and safety aspects“, suggests Axel Dick, Executive Vice President Business Development Environment and Energy, CSR, Quality Austria. Circular economy starts with product design.
10 tips for implementing a circular economy in the company
According to the recommendations of the qualityaustria experts, the following points can have positive effects with regard to circular economy:
- Product design & development: Companies should avoid substances of high concern, such as carcinogenic or mutagenic substances, already in the product development stage and substitute them with other substances. The products should have modular design and be easy to repair and disassemble.
- Supply chain: More detailed information about suppliers or purchased semi-finished products should be obtained during the procurement process.
- Durability: The manufactured goods shall be designed to be more durable.
- Service: Producers should offer more maintenance and repairs, and make it easier to replace individual parts through modular product design.
- Customer loyalty: If a product is completely unusable, brand loyalty can be pushed by taking back the product or issuing discount coupons.
- Quality: The secondary raw materials shall be of high quality so that they can be reused again and again in the sense of circular economy.
- Transport routes: Purchasing from local suppliers ensures short transport routes and helps protecting the environment.
- Occupational Health and Safety: Products must not only be safe during production and use, but also when being recycled – no hazardous substances may escape and endanger the workers, or subsequently, the environment.
- Management systems: The implementation of Environmental and Energy Management Systems as well as Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems provides a lot of data that enables evindence-based decisions.
- Certification: Cradle to Cradle Certification can be used to transparently demonstrate the recyclability and environmental friendliness of products.