International conference CIRCULAR ECONOMY FOR COMPETETIVE REGIONS in Siauliai, Lithuania
2019 12 03

Citizens,business, regions - everyone will have to contribute to the circular economy.

Today's need to adapt to environmental change must be accompanied by a change inpolitical decisions and human habits. Economic, industrial and domestic activities will increasingly have to take account of reduced availability of resources and pollution. In the future will flourish only those who will adapt best.

The topics of the environmentally friendly circular economy and its new opportunities were discussed at the international conference in Šiauliai organized by Šiauliai Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Crafts and other partners including European Economic and Social Committee.

The circular economy is an alternative to the “linear” economy, which takes the natural resources, produces product and discards waste. Circular economy bridges the process and allows the waste to be reused, thus addressing the growing problem of pollution. Here in Europe, 88 million tons of good food isdiscarded, overall only one-seventh of all raw materials are recycled, and plastics, one of the most slowly degradable material in the seas and oceans, comprisesabout 85 percent of waste.

The EU intends to further focus on greening and sustainable consumer solutions that will affect everyone, from the individual consumer to large corporations. From2021, manufacturers will abandon ten disposable plastic products.

“The circular economy raises waste and returns it to the economy. The European Green Course will be one of the major drivers of change in the new European Commission. We are striving to become the first climate-neutral continent,” - said Arnoldas Pranckevičius, Head of the European Commission Representation in Lithuania, who presented the new guidelines for the future of the EU at theconference.

The new EU funding cycle will focus more specifically on environmental issues, but it is clear that money alone is not enough - the involvement of all actors in the consumption chain is needed to bring the desired change.

About 4million people in the EU are already involved in the circular economy and the sector itself generates an additional 147 billion EUR. The sector is growing, but in Lithuania the circular economy has an 'indicator' of only 4.5%.

EESC Employers‘ Group member Dittmann Bernd  noted, that circular economy practices have been used in the world for centuries, but only because of the attention of the EU institutions has become an environmental project.

“The circular economy is functioning at several levels - within the company, between businesses, between businesses and consumers, and between consumers. There is also crucial to involve the public sector. Digitalization, automation, the Internet of Things will make this concept more attractive”, he predicted.

Kylä-Harakka-RuonalaTellervo, EESC Emplyers’ Group member, noted that the circular economy is not only about recovering, reusing, recycling and remanufacturing. It is primarily about planning processes and products – and their whole life cycle – with a view to facilitating the efficient use of resources, prolonging the use of products and materials and maximising the overall value of the product. It calls for "ecosystem thinking", which becomes a reality during cooperation between enterprises of different sizes, from different sectors andfrom different parts of value chains. To encourage businesses to be at the forefront of the circular economy, policy-makers should provide enterpriseswith a business environment that is favourable for innovating, investing andtrading.


It isnot about future it’s today

The fact that businesses can make a variety of green decisions in the production chain was demonstrated by practical examples in the speakers at the second part of the conference.

Mindaugas Rupšys from Mars Lietuva said that even a small change in the process can be seen if the production volume is high. “We produce about 300 tons a day. When we started investing in energy reduction, we reduced our energy use per tonne of food by 20% over a decade. Since 2012 for all production we use only renewable energy produced in Lithuania. We have also reduced the amount of water consumed, and since 2013 we no longer have any waste sent to land fill,” -he said.

Both this company and many manufacturers around the world face another problem - the packaging used is made of composite materials and is therefore very difficult to sort. In response to this challenge, the company's new goal of 2025 was born: implementation of a sustainablepackaging model. “We want to design packaging in a way that makes it clear tothe consumer how to sort it. We have already replaced some plastic parts ”, -said M. Rupšys.

Vidmantas Janulevičius, Global BOD Group Solar Solutions, pointed out that greenersolutions are not only a nice, although costly, step towards environmental protection. First of all, it is the savings. Although EU countries have avariety of natural resources, they are generally not rich in this respect.

 “Every business day, we pay about 1.4 billioneuros to third parties for fossils aimed for fuel and other consumption. On non-working days, this amount exceeds 1 billion euros. The use of renewable resources is inseparable from the circular economy and would reduce thisnumber. If we produce the energy we need, all these billions would remain withus,” - he said.

The rapporteur also expressed the hope that the state will follow the example of France and introduce the CO2 footprint criterion into its public procurement by promoting wider adoption of green technologies. Such an indicator would revealthe amount of recyclable materials used in the production and the type ofenergy used.

Other speakers also presented good business and environmental practices. GediminasTamošaitis, Metal Production, talked about aquaculture, and Tomas Vaitkevičius,VAATC, discussed modern waste management guidelines. Valdonė Daugėlaitė, PhDstudent, Institute of Environmental Engineering, Kaunas University ofTechnology, presented her start-up CupCup. This company collects the used cupsin the cafes, disinfects them and returns for further use.

DomantasTracevicius, Insectum, reminded the conference participants of the futurechanges in the food market. He presented the benefits of insect farming andrevealed ways in which they could be used in production. For example, insectmeal could substitute fishmeal used in compound feeds, and these protein-richcreatures can themselves become part of the daily diet of humans.


It’s in our hands

EESCEmployers‘ Group member Burns Brendan spoke to the audience about the use of forest resources and urged Lithuanians to be more concerned and take use of the forests.

 “If this region - I am talking about the Baltic States - wants to supply timber, it is necessary to invest in the process, to create added value, to grow trees for particular own use. Tree harvesting machines are also manufactured in Scandinavia, but not in Lithuania or Latvia, this could also be an opportunity“,- he said.

Mr Burns has revealed that a great deal of information about Lithuanian forests he has got from analysts based in Canada, and that illustrates the fact that foreigncompanies are very interested in Lithuanian forest resources.

“If you do not use your resources, I will use them, and if not, somebody else will use them. So far, these resources are in your hands, and it's up to you to decide how to use them,”- Burns recalled.

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