Ireland is currently operating a linear economy model following a ‘take–make–waste’ pathway for resources, manufacturing and products. This traditional, non-sustainable economic model is not only wasteful and harmful to the natural environment, but it is also a barrier to progress against national climate targets, particularly for the waste sector.
At present, many business models are centred around linear economies due to this model being engrained in modern society, such as extracting oil to manufacture single-use plastic products and disposing of them in landfill.
In contrast, a circular economy model follows a ‘take-make-remake’ pathway for resources, seeking to prolong product lifecycles for as long as possible and ensuring waste materials can be salvaged and re-used as raw materials elsewhere. A national pivot towards circularity will not only reduce resource intensity but will also aid in meeting national climate objectives following a reduction in carbon-intensive practices, such as resource extraction and processing.
KPMG Ireland’s latest report provides an up-to-date review of Ireland’s evolving circular economy policy landscape, with a deep dive into several key sectors (food, packaging, construction & e-waste) which may be impacted by changing policies and government plans.
The report can be read in full here.
From Policy to Practice
Ireland has recognised the importance of transitioning to a circular economy and has implemented a suite of policies and initiatives to support the changes needed across government, industry, and individuals. The driving forces behind this change can be attributed to European Union (EU) programmes for tackling climate and waste issues, such as the Paris Agreement, the EU Green Deal, and the EU Circular Economy package. The report looks at the initiatives that Ireland is undergoing to reduce waste, increase resource efficiency and promote a more circular economy.
Re-Thinking Plastics & Packaging
A circular economy is a system whereby resources are kept in the value chain for as long as possible, where waste is minimised, and materials are recycled and/or repurposed at the end of their useful life. Plastics and packaging play a significant role in this system, as they have rapidly become some of the most commonly used materials in daily life. The report looks at the initiatives underway to promote circularity for plastics and packaging.
Feeding the Future: Turning Food Waste into a Resource
Ireland, like many developed countries, faces significant challenges with food waste. A circular approach can help to address this problem by focusing on reducing waste at the production stage and seeking alternative uses for unavoidable waste. The report looks at the practical steps for consideration to tackle this issue such as reducing food waste at the source, implementing food recovery and redistribution programmes and composting & anaerobic digestion.
Building a Circular Future: The Construction Sector
Ireland’s construction sector has faced increasing pressure to reduce waste and become more sustainable. With a severe housing shortage and many urban areas undergoing regeneration, the sector faces the twin challenges of shift to significantly increase its sustainability whilst also meeting demand. With the sector responsible for almost half of the waste generated in Ireland, a fully circular construction sector is essential for Ireland to achieve its climate goals. The report looks at the practical steps the sector may take to achieve this.
Leading the Charge: The Future of E-Waste Disposal
Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) is one of the world’s fastest-growing waste streams. In 2020, Ireland collected its highest ever quantity of WEEE for treatment, at 64,856 tonnes. This figure represented a 4% increase on the quantity collected in 2019. The report examines ways to tackle the problems of e-waste, through the re-evaluation of the need to upgrade electronics, encouraging the repair of electronic goods and the correct disposal of e-waste.
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
It is now widely recognised that the circular economy agenda is fundamentally interlinked with the net-zero agenda, both on a global and national scale. As Ireland begins to ramp up actions to curb national emissions through the latest Climate Action Plan, it is imperative that circularity remains central to other national strategies and is utilised as a lever for change across business supply chains.
With ambitious waste reduction targets and the rollout of new schemes like the DRS and the CEIGS, and in a national and European policy context the National End-of-Waste decision on recycled aggregates and the ‘Right to Repair’ policy, businesses that operate in resource-intensive and waste-generating industries can expect significant changes to their operations over the coming years. Companies should evaluate all aspects of their supply chains to seek ways of improving circularity through novel methods of waste reduction or innovative product design.
By incorporating circular practices into business models at an early stage, companies can stay one step ahead of forthcoming legislation, such as the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) circular economy performance indicators in 2025, and act as leaders in the delivery of climate commitments whilst creating value across their supply chains.
Source: KPMG Ireland