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circular economy. According to the EU

institution, the upcoming package will take a

coherent approach that fully reflects

interactions and interdependence along the

value chain. It will also comprise a revised

legislative proposal on waste and a

communication setting out an action plan on

the circular economy. Portal asked Holemans

for his thoughts on the EU institution’s move to

implement a replacement package.

“I’m very disappointed,” he said, “because we

are losing valuable time and there were some

good concepts on the table. We have very

important climate change negotiations in Paris

in December; we cannot say that we will

develop a new package and, within a few years,

develop new ideas about a circular economy –

we have to implement them today.

“The same thinking can be applied for

directives on Nature conservation. If you look at

the report that was issued by the European

Environmental Agency, we are doing very badly.

One-third of our protected habitats are

deteriorating; that’s a clear message that we

have to change policy and make directives even

stronger. This is important: we have to protect

more Nature. Yet, at the same time, this cannot

serve as an alibi for doing what we want with

the rest of the environment.”

Circular sufficiency

Holemans then moved to discuss two further

important aspects to realising a circular economy

– connecting efficiency with sufficiency and

sharing things, two concepts that are being led

by the citizen.

“The circular economy is also based on another

premise which I call the ‘economy of sufficiency’.

If you always want to be more efficient and your

car is becoming more efficient, yet you drive

more kilometres, or if we insulate our houses and

increase efficiency, but then with the money we

save we fly off on holiday, the burden on the

planet gets even bigger.

“We have to introduce the concept of

sufficiency, which is now beginning to happen.

This ‘sharing economy’ was not introduced by

policy makers or regulations; it was introduced

by citizens being fed up with always having to

buy more products only to produce more waste.

Their response was: it can’t go on like this, and

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you could have a better life with less materialism if you share things. And

it works: if you look at cities in Europe, car sharing schemes are growing

very fast and the impact is enormous – one shared car can replace 11

private ones.

“In certain cities, we have so-called ‘libraries of equipment’. This is also

a very important route to having a vital economy – it’s more of a service

economy where, for example, you don’t buy a car but instead use the

mobility services that are offered, or, rather than buying garden equipment

when you need it, you can use a service to borrow your required

implements. These are two very important building blocks for a new

economy, allowing a good life whilst staying inside planetary boundaries.

“The sufficiency race is in our so-called ‘sustainable box’. Efficiency

without sufficiency is in our ‘unsustainable box’: people will just drive

consumption up to a higher level.”

Connected with the environment

Holemans then provided his thoughts on the extent to which citizens are

reacting to the need to reduce their impact on the environment, and the

multitude of influences that are affecting society.

“We can observe two currents in the European countries,” he said. “We

have a dominant current, the one we hear every day through the media,

in movies and on television programmes. It’s about economic growth

and buying more products, and it’s full of advertising.

“Yet there is also a second current, a smaller but growing one where

citizens, awoken by the financial crisis, have realised that whilst they

have worked hard and saved money, within five years something could

happen with the euro or another oil crisis could come, and as such the

future isn’t guaranteed and we have to take it into our own hands.

“These people aren’t waiting anymore for the big narrative or big ideology

but instead, in their neighbourhood and city, are going to set up collective

practices and develop so-called ‘new circles of certainty’. There’s a

lot of uncertainty in the world, and this is building a new environment.

In March, Karmenu

Vella announced that

the European

Commission would

present a new

proposal on the

circular economy