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Circular economy in a circular society

Responding to the challenge of a European circular economy will be best secured if all parts of society make their contribution.

The aim to reduce waste and ensure a full circularity of the economy goes beyond what economic actors alone can do: it embraces all our society and is a societal challenge. In effect, we need a circular society approach to ensure a circular economy.

The home appliance sector is and had been playing its part. It has already a proven record of energy and resource efficiency, circular from the outset. The sector has continuously provided a significant contribution through designing and manufacturing innovative products that cut resource use, especially energy and water, save labour as well as time and money, and reducing waste. Home appliance manufacturers are constantly improving products to maintain this added value that enriches the lives of all society.

This was the thrust of CECED Director-General Paolo Falcioni’s message during the “Italy, a leader in Europe in the Home Appliance Sector” event which took place at “Instituto Luigi Sturzo” in Rome on 18th July.

Mr Falcioni was presenting, alongside Mr Marco Imparato, Director-General of CECED’s sister organisation CECED Italia, the Home Appliance Europe 2015-6 report. The report provides details of the contribution the home appliance sector makes to the European economy and provides pointers to future trends of sustainable growth and wealth.

During the discussion, Mr Falcioni stressed how appliances make their contribution within the wider economy. Taking the need to tackle food waste, he explained how fridges and freezers help save resources and help consumers enjoy food safely.

He added, to produce appliances, the industry consumes resources such as metals and plastics that are recyclable and, especially metals, have been recycled throughout time thanks to their inherent economic value. In the last years, this has been further promoted by legal requirements introduced by EU waste legislation. A recent material flows analysis has showed that there is virtually no waste and, through innovation, the sector is making further contributions to Europe’s economy, sustainably.

The contribution to sustainable modern living will continue to develop, he indicated over the coming years, not least through the introduction of smart-enabled appliances. Using your fridge and other appliances will continue to develop consumer sustainable lifestyles not only through energy efficiency, as has been traditionally the case, but with the harnessing of clean energy when it is available.

Difficulties remained, however. Because of the high metal content and intrinsic economic value of large appliances, and the historic presence of the recycling industry already, long before EU legislation, market dynamics make sure that a large share of all e-waste is handled outside the industry driven recycling schemes. With only one-third of e-waste effectively traced in Europe (and only 22% in Italy), success was as much about enforcing legislation as a full societal effort, not just making laws. Society at large needed to tackle actual problems, such as e-waste escaping control.

In 2015-6, the sector produced €44bn in turnover in Europe annually, 230,000 direct jobs (and nearly one-million jobs overall) and 1.4bn in investment. It also paid €14bn collectively to European national exchequers.

Italy was a big player within the European Union providing €8.5bn of the overall turnover and thousands of Italians with quality jobs, given its manufacturing presence.

“In short, the sector is providing solutions to the creation of a new, modern, more sustainable economy”, he concluded.