To respond to this unsustainable model, the circular economy (or circularity) is the alternative model that promotes the efficient use of natural resources and minimizes waste through reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling.
Since 2015, a key objective of the European Union is to accelerate the transition to circular economy. In March 2020, the European Commission published the second Circular Economy Action Plan, which is part of the European Green Deal, and it has three main lines of action. First, the creation of a policy framework for sustainable products to ensure the sustainability of products of the European markets. Second, empowering consumers and public buyers through increasing the information on products at the point of sale. Third, increasing the circularity in production processes, focusing in key sectors, such as packaging, plastics and food.
By the end of 2021, the European Commission is expected to propose a sustainable product policy legislative initiative that will widen the Ecodesign Directive. Within this initiative, the Commission will assess the need to establish sustainable principles in the products to regulate aspects such as durability, reusability, recycled content, carbon footprint, among others. In addition, the Commission will establish a common European Dataspace for Smart Circular Applications to increase data sharing that can enhance circularity along the whole supply chain.
In this regard, ARECO plays a crucial role for the transition to circular agri-food supply chains. By promoting the use of reusable crates for food distribution, ARECO drives the efficient use of resources and the reduction of the environmental impacts of food transportation. To gain more knowledge and to efficiently communicate the environmental benefits of reusable crates, ARECO requested an environmental study comparing the performance of reusable plastic crates and one-use cardboard boxes to distribute fruit and vegetables in Spain.
In addition, to enhance ARECO’s leading role in the transition to circular economy, ARECO has launched the ARECO Postdoctoral Fellowship in Circularity together with the UNESCO Chair in Life Cycle and Climate Change ESCI-UPF. The key objective of this fellowship is to evaluate the circularity of the current and innovative food distribution systems.
By Laura Batlle Bayer, researcher of the ARECO postdoctoral fellowship at the UNESCO Chair in Lifecycle and Climate Change at ESCI-UPF.