The European Union, within the Interreg Europe programme, defines a Good Practice as an initiative (e.g., a project, a process, a technique) which has proved to be successful because it has provided tangible and measurable results in achieving a specific objective. Thus, it is important that the proved success in a region is scalable and of potential interest to other regions.
For this reason, the exchange of experiences was fundamental within the RETRACE project, that comprises 7 field visits in which 65 European Good Practices of Circular Economics were identified and visited in the project partner countries (Italy, Spain, France, Romania and Slovenia) and in Scotland and the Netherlands, regions at the forefront of circular innovation.
From this experience, 5 key areas emerged on which to intervene to support the development of circular enterprises:
Promote inter-sectoral cooperation. This is the case of Horizon Proteins that in Scotland is carrying out a new business based on patented technology to obtain under-utilised proteins captured in distillery by-products to create high-quality fish feeding. The collaboration of different disciplines (biology, engineering, and management) and different industrial sectors (universities, whisky distilleries, biochemical industries, fish farms) was essential.
Enhance policies focused on Circular Economy. An example is The Circular Valley, an innovation hub in The Netherlands that aims at boosting Circular Economy-related activities by bringing together different stakeholders (designers, NGOs, start-ups, SMEs, corporates and governmental organisations). This environment enhances the creation of new synergies among them. In this case, the Hub is a dedicated tool that enables practical and legislative support to be given to new circular activities.
Boost business activities around Circular Economy. In Slovenia, the company Iskraemeco is carrying out the Fair Meter Project, which aims at producing electronic smart metres by taking into account the environmental and social sustainability of the whole supply chain. In this case, Public Procurement was a fundamental asset: the Dutch government has launched a €470 million tender, which not only benefits the winner but also promotes new sustainable and circular trends in the energy industry.
Support the role of SMEs in circular innovation.For example, Agrindustria is an Italian SME which focus its business on exploiting the unused value of local agro-industrial and agricultural waste by creating sustainable products for different industrial applications, such as automotive, clean tech, cosmetics, and animal husbandry. This has also been possible thanks to the access to regional policy instruments that have allowed the company to invest in sustainable products and process innovation, despite its limited size and the lack of human and financial resources to create an internal R&D department.
Raise the involvement and training of people involved in Circular Economy activities.This includes primarily the involvement and awareness of citizens and regional actors, as in the case of Edinburgh Remakery, a centre offering creative programmes on re-use and Circular Economy open to citizens, enterprises and public authorities. In other cases, the awareness objective is addressed at a global level and focuses on important issues for sustainable development: AquafilSLO, a Slovenian company that recovers nylon contained in plastic waste, has launched an initiative to collect fishing nets dispersed at sea and inform people about marine and ocean pollution.
A selection of Good Practices is available on the RETRACE project website.