A circular economy means that the linear economic system we have today is replaced by a closed cycle to save the earth's resources. Photo: Canva.com

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The transition to a circular economy places demands on sustainable consumption

A transition to a circular economy is necessary to achieve the global sustainability goals according to the government. The corona pandemic has contributed to an increased need for sustainable consumption and now, for the first time, Sweden is developing a strategy for a circular economy to improve the environment.

The corona pandemic has caused a global health crisis in which almost all the countries of the world have been affected. The UN's World Food Program (WFP) warned this spring because the pandemic can lead to many people suffering from a livelihood crisis that will worst affect people who are already living in vulnerable living conditions. The number of people suffering from acute food shortages may double according to WFP.

- Covid-19 is potentially catastrophic for millions of people who are already hanging by a thread. It is a severe blow to millions of people who can only eat if they earn a living. It only takes one more shock - like the COVID-19 - to shoot them over the edge. We must act collectively now to mitigate the effects of the global catastrophe, said Arif Husain, WFP's chief economist in a press release. 

Companies in crisis

In Sweden, the corona pandemic has affected the country's economy with thousands of unemployed, laid off employees and companies in crisis. Minister of the Environment and Climate Isabella Lövin has previously stated that the government wants to see a recovery of society that accelerates a transition to a climate-neutral and circular economy. There needs to be a change in how valuable material is used according to the government and Isabella Lövin who believe that inefficient use of resources today accounts for an estimated fifty percent of climate emissions. Through a more efficient use of materials, both their service life and value can increase while the extraction of new raw materials and waste decreases.

Closed cycle to save the earth's resources

A circular economy means that the linear economic system we have today is replaced by a closed cycle to save the earth's resources according to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Today's economic system can be likened to a straight line where we extract materials from nature's resources to produce goods that then become waste. The aim of a circular economy is that products should have as little negative environmental impact as possible and that as little of the products as possible should be waste. Instead of them becoming waste, the materials are recycled from the products so that they can be included in new production.

Goods must last longer and have a longer service life, which places higher demands on high quality and production without hazardous chemicals that prevent the products from being recycled. Another way to reduce a product's environmental impact is by several people sharing it, which in practice means that either several people own a product together or that the product is borrowed or rented out to several users.

National strategy for achieving change

To reduce Sweden's use of resources, the government decided this summer that Sweden will switch to a circular economy, and earlier in the autumn the national strategy for conversion was presented by Isabella Lövin and Ibrahim Baylan, Minister of Trade and Industry.

- A circular economy is wiser, significantly better for the environment and we also create opportunities for many new jobs and sustainable business, says Minister of the Environment and Climate Isabella Lövin.

In order to achieve several of the global sustainability goals, the transition to a circular economy is also necessary. But also to secure the future of Swedish business and Sweden's important exports. The change requires action plans with concrete measures that will now be reviewed in dialogue with business, industry organizations and authorities, according to the government.

- Business plays a central role in the development towards the circular economy. The Swedish business community has high ambitions when it comes to circular economy and wants to play a driving role, writes the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

Corporate action 

The corporate network Circular Sweden brings together companies that drive the development of circular material flows forward and agree with the government that circular economy would be favorable for Swedish companies. Among the Swedish companies that have begun their circular adjustment work are H&M and IKEA. Several companies' conversion work is described in one recently published report.

Among the initiatives that are highlighted are H & M's goal to only use recycled or sustainably produced materials by 2030, which is planned to be achieved by, among other things, educating growers in how they can reduce water supply when growing cotton.

IKEA plans to create products that last longer and use 100 percent circular products and 100 percent renewable or recycled materials by 2030. IKEA also opened its in early November first second-hand shop for IKEA products. Sweden's municipalities are also investing in creating conditions for a functioning circular society. The initiatives vary between large and small investments, according to Circular Economy.

The actions of private individuals play a crucial role

 In order to achieve sustainable consumption in Sweden and succeed in the transition to a circular economy, commitment from private individuals is also required, according to the government's previous statements. This will place new demands on private individuals' consumption patterns, which goes hand in hand with the call that came this spring from several social actors. The debaters believe that the Swedish people need to make consumption choices that protect the environment but also human rights.

The corona pandemic has created a changed work climate

 Four billion people in the world today live without safety nets, which means that the opportunity to put food on the table is directly linked to having a wage income and only 65 percent of those who work in the first tier of the trade chain today earn a living wage writes Fairtrade Sweden and co-authoring organizations. These people lack the margins needed in crisis situations.

Both the public sector and private individuals can and should make consumption choices that contribute to human rights and the environment being met in world trade, according to Fairtrade Sweden and several actors. The pandemic has strengthened the need for sustainable consumption and at the same time made the transition more difficult. However, due to the pandemic, many European countries have found it more difficult to switch to more sustainable consumption and have failed to transpose the EU circular economy package into national law. according to EBB. At the same time, the opportunities for positive change within the EU are highlighted.

"The pandemic is putting heavy pressure on governments and economies in the Member States, while highlighting the potential for best practice and change the behavior of large sections of the EU population," writes the European Environment Agency (EEB).

What does it mean to switch to a circular economy?

1. To reduce the consumption of new things. 2. Reuse more. 3. Design products and packaging smarter. 4. Recycle more materials. Use the energy in what cannot be recycled and which must therefore be incinerated. Source: Swedish Society for Nature Conservation

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