Brussels, 5 November 2019 - On Tuesday 29th October, CEN and CENELEC held a workshop dedicated to exploring how standardization can support the transition to a fully functioning Circular economy. In particular, the workshop focussed on the challenges in reaching circular value-chains for plastic, wood, concrete and metal.

The transition to a Circular Economy offers a unique opportunity to generate innovative, sustainable, resource-efficient and competitive advantages for European businesses and consumers. Circular Economy will help the EU reach its ambitious energy and climate targets and remain at the forefront of the green economy. This objective can be best reached by closing resource loops and maintaining the value and quality of materials all along the cycle.

Standards have a role to play in facilitating this transition. In order to provide input to the discussion, CEN and CENELEC, two of the official European Standardization Organizations (ESOs), organised the workshop “Materials – Value chains for circular economy: metal, wood, plastic and concrete”, which took place in Brussels on 29th October.

The event put together a variety of stakeholders coming from the industry, policy makers, research institutes, civil society and the standardization community to identify the cross-sectorial needs in the materials’ circular value-chains, and to identify specific standardization solutions to further close the loops for metal, wood, plastic and concrete.

Working together to achieve full circularity

The workshop was opened by an introduction by Christoph Winterhalter, CEN’s Vice-President Policy, who set the scene for the discussions to come. He was followed by the presentation of a series of specific case-studies from the industry on material reuse and recycling approach for different materials, such as circular plastics, the construction of a viaduct and the transition towards circular economy at Philips.

After the study cases, the floor was opened to participants: they had the opportunity to exchange their views on the challenges linked to closing the loop for each material, and to both discuss and identify specific standardization gaps for a circular material-use of metal, wood, plastic and concrete. The outcome from this discussion was debated in a panel discussion on cross-sectorial needs for materials in circular value-chains, which saw interventions from representatives of the industry who presented common trends to their relative sectors.

On the second part of the workshop, more perspectives were provided through two keynote speeches by representatives from the European Commission and the International Organization for Standardization, who presented, respectively, the EU’s policies for sustainable products in a circular economy and the role of international standardization.
The perspectives and priorities emerged during the different keynote speeches and presentations fed into the last part of the workshop, which was dedicated to discussing possible solutions. A second break-out session where participants were called to actively identify areas and ways in which standards can further improve circularity and environmental performance of different sectors was followed by a final panel discussion. Representatives from the industry, policy makers, civil society and the standardization community discussed how standardization can help reach fully-functioning circular value chains for the different materials and identified some key priorities for standardization solutions and actions for standards to support the transition.

For more information, all presentations given at the event are available on CEN and CENELEC’s website.

Setting the roadmap for the future of circular standardization
The workshop’s discussions provided a first overview of the main remaining needs and opportunities for standardization in the field of the circular economy. In particular, a strong focus was put on the need for a common understanding and common metrics for circularity and the recycling of materials, to ensure their quality. Another challenge that was identified consisted of the different approaches across sectors and in different countries.

In this context, the role of European standardization role can be to create cohesion and a common approach all around Europe, and to ensure methods to assess the durability and quality of recycled products. Most importantly, standards have a particularly relevant role: to create trust.

Christoph Winterhalter, CEN’s President, commented: “Many standardization solutions already exist to facilitate the transition towards a Circular economy, and related activities have been so far organized per sectors and products. However, the future of ‘Circular Standardization’ is still broad, and there is a real need for the development of a coherent and coordinated set of standards along the entire value chains. The input of this workshop will serve as a useful roadmap to plan CEN and CENELEC work on the issue for the coming years.”

Media contact:
Giovanni Collot
Project Manager Strategy & Governance
CEN-CENELEC Management Centre
Email: gcollot@cencenelec.eu
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Twitter: @Standards4EU