The “Rapid Assessment Report on the Benefits of Circular Economy on Mitigation of GHGs emissions in the Waste Sector” aims to identify opportunities and challenges for the mitigation of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions through advancing circular practices in the waste management sector, in line with the European Green Deal and the EU Action Plan on Circular Economy (CE). After considering the relevant policies of the Republic of North Macedonia, six waste streams were selected in accordance to the priorities of the National Waste Management plan 2020-2030, to demonstrate the benefits from the shift to CE. The rapid assessment considers the benefits of circular economy in minimizing the use of resource inputs, and the creation of waste and carbon emissions as well as improving the current situation.
Why Circular Economy is important for GHGs mitigation?
Circular Economy becomes a condition to achieve the targets of Paris Agreement and to mitigate GHGs. This is due to the substitution of primary materials by secondary ones, coming from circular practices and closed loops, which creates a domino effect that reduces carbon emissions from raw materials extraction, transport, manufacturing, retailing and waste management. Thus, Circular Economy should not be considered an option for policy making but a main pillar of each policy option available. The question is not if we need Circular Economy but how and how fast we can implement it.
The role of waste management
Although circular practices concern the major industrial and manufacturing supply chains in rich countries, in countries like North Macedonia where the rate of industrialization is currently rather low and imports of manufactured materials are the main way to acquire them, the starting point for a shift to circular practices should be the waste management sector. By shifting the management of specific waste streams to circular practices, not only substantial environmental and economic benefits are achieved but the waste management sector can act as a catalyst for the whole economy of the country.
Rapid assessment methodology
An innovative methodology was developed to assess the benefits from shifting to circular economy practices. The assessment focused on growing waste streams, including: (1) the end of life vehicles (ELVs), (2) Secondary Residual Fuels (SRF), (3) biowaste, (4) electrical and electronic waste (E-waste), (5) construction and demolition (C&D) waste, and (6) plastics. The use of three core indicators, as a proxy of the expected benefits, was essential for an outcome suitable for policy making. Therefore, the waste streams were assessed according to the following indicators: (1) Economic benefits expressed in million EUR per year, including direct and indirect benefits (e.g. value of recovered resources, reduction of consumption, carbon credits cost savings etc.), (2) Employment benefits expressed in new jobs created by the shift to circular practices, and (3) Net savings in GHG emissions. The GHGs emissions of 2016 were used as a baseline to calculate savings achieved by circular practices by 2030 for the six selected waste streams.
Overall, it was assessed that applying circular practices to the selected case studies and waste streams can deliver, by 2030:
• 951 Gg CO2eq/year GHGs savings comparing to 2016
• 2,740 new jobs
• 47.17 million EUR of economic benefits
Therefore, we can deduce that the shift to circular practices, even if it is restricted to the six selected waste streams, is enough to counterbalance the emissions from solid waste disposal (almost double savings), and the emissions from the Waste and Industrial Processes and Product Use sectors.
Overall, it can be said that advancing circularities and closed loops in selected waste streams can act as a catalyst for the overall shift of the Macedonian economic landscape towards circular economy, providing substantial economic, environmental and social benefits.