For those who have never come across the term “circular economy”, Karolina Kužmarskytė, circular economy expert of the Lithuanian Innovation Center (LIC) explains: circular economy – this is an economic systemma, which aims to reduce the use of primary raw materials and thus mitigate the negative impact on the environment. Also – to ensure more sustainable growth in the context of diminishing natural resources.
“In order to achieve these goals, different strategies are used in practice. These are the implementation of technologies that use materials and energy resources more efficiently, the improvement of waste collection and recycling infrastructure, the development of production from secondary raw materials, the creation of new sharing services, and the application of innovative and ecological product design. The greatest impact on the development of the circular economy is the synergy of all these activities, because depending on how the product is produced and used, and then – sorted in the waste recycling system, depends on how we will be able to use its components and materials in a new production cycle,” says K. Kužmarskytė.
Consumers, whose daily choices play an equally important role in the circular economy – from product acquisition to product disposal – has dprofound influence on the growth of circularity. When the LIC expert inquired about what solutions each of us can contribute to the promotion of the circular economy, K. Kužmarskytė first draws attention to the purchase of new items.
“When buying new things, it’s worth aconsider how often they will be used. If these are single-use items, it is worth abandoning them altogether or looking for reusable alternatives, for example, there is a wide range of reusable bags, cloths, and drinkers on the market. If we are going to use an item once or twice a year, why not rent it, borrow it or buy it at a used item store? When it comes to buying food at that time, it is important to assess yourself whether you will be able to consume the food and not have to throw it away after the expiry date”, says the interviewer.
If you do decide to purchase an item, the best thing you can do is take proper care of it so that it lasts as long as possible. “If these are textile products, it is important to wash them according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If the electronic equipment malfunctions, it is worth taking it to the rule. It is also worth repairing or renewing textile products, footwear, bicycles, furniture. Also, you should not forget about the warranty period of the purchased goods and do not be lazy to contact the seller”, says the expert.
It should also be thought about when we plan to throw away things we no longer need. If these are still usable items, the specialist encourages us to give them away, exchange or sell them and reminds us that even when we think the items are notare suitable for use, they can be revived by others. Works great at the moment exchange platformosas well as clothing commission, update secondary design studia where you can sell used clothes, update your collectiona by exchanging the contents of the closet with other items. Also stations for sharing used items are expanding rapidly, where you can give used but still usable items and share them with those in needthereby extending time of use of items, reducing buy new onesjintake and amount of waste. in 2022 In Lithuaniaeye stops there are already 75 units.
“If you decide to dispose of an item, it’s critical that you do it properly. Textile products should go to a textile container, electronics to electrical and electronic equipment collection points, furniture, construction and hazardous waste to bulky waste collection sites. In addition, it is worth noting please note that used textiles can be brought to shops, used electronics return in all eleconics distribution points, established by manufacturers and/or importersose place of receptionose. Municipalities are obliged to providei.e. for residents, round-trip collection services four times a yearfor construction, household textile, furniture, dangerous for waste collection. You should also remember to prepare and sort the package correctlyyou and food waste. The more responsibly we prepare the waste for disposal, the better quality it will be handled later”, says K. Kužmarskytė.
What is that all about?
By not sorting, using irresponsibly, buying a lot of products that are not always needed, we cause enormous damage to nature and our health. However, an unsustainable lifestyle not only increases the amount of greenhouse gases (GHG), but also has a direct impact on the growth of environmental pollution and the decline of biodiversity.
“We can clearly see the trend of increasing municipal waste. If in 2011 there was 442 kg of municipal waste per inhabitant, in 2020 this amount reached 483 kg, despite the fact that the population in Lithuania is decreasing. As the current waste management system is unable to process such amount of waste, environmental pollution comes from other waste management, ie incineration or disposal in landfills. Of course, sustainable living involves more than just reducing waste. People’s transportation also has a significant impact, especially on GHG emissions. The majority of the country’s population mainly travels by car, which accounts for 54% of the transport sector’s GHG emissions”, K. Kužmarskytė presents the statistics.
Applying the principles of circularity, as the expert explains, is also financially beneficial, and the greatest benefit is received not only when we stop buying things we rarely use or have more than we need, but also whenwhen we save resources.
“Crowding the house with little necessary things is not the most rational way to spend one’s income. Savings can also be made by reducing electricity and water consumption, traveling more economically, more rationally when heating or cooling residential premises. In this way, we save not only natural resources, but also the contents of our wallet. Syou can also save money by taking care of the things you have, using them longer, and getting involved in the sharing economy,” says the LIC representative.
How with is Lithuania handling the implementation of circularity principles?
Although there are platforms for sharing things, collection stations, and various business and public initiatives to live more sustainably in Lithuania, according to the latest EU data, Lithuania’s circularity index, which indicates the ratio between the use of secondary raw materials and the use of primary raw materials, is only 4.4 percent. Mrfor comparison, countries such as Belgium, Holland or Germany have exceeded 20%. limit. Head of Public Enterprise “Ziedinė ekonomika”I’m Domantas Tracevicius notices: although it is publicly said that the nearest goal of Lithuania is to reach 12 percent, it is simply impossible to do so in the current situation – first of all, the legal framework must change.
“By shifting more responsibility to producers, significant changes could be felt. For example, manufacturers should be charged extra for bringing new materials onto the market, for items with toxic substances or items with non-recyclable materialsohs, production. Also obligeddami to repair some of its products that end up in bulky waste collection sites. If it doesn’t pay off financially for the business, and according to logic, it should, it will have to change its own activities model, that is, they will start producing more sustainable, greener and longer-lasting products. However, changes require the will and determination of legislators,” says D. Tracevičius.
Just the same, according to the interviewerthe consumers themselves become responsible for the promotion of circularity, who have the duty to express their position and expectations both in accordance with the lawconsumers as well as producers.
“Every purchase we make sends a message to manufacturers. If they see that we support consumerism, fast fashion, then they will certainly not slow down and continue to mass-produce disposable, non-durable items. But if people want change, then business will have to adapt to it. And he will adapt, he will not disappear anywhere, he will continue to earn money, but we will have the opportunity to receive quality goods or services”, says the specialist.
Skeptics will probably notice at this point – the production of a long-lasting item costs significantly more, so it is not economically beneficial for either the manufacturer or the buyer. However, according to D. Tracevičius, it seems so only to those who underestimate the damage to themselves, the environment and even the economy.
“Industrial productiona separatethere are many harmful substances, cities polluted, people get sick more often, productivity decreases, which leads to a decrease in the workforce, and this means the economy is weakening. So we can clearly see that by consuming a lot and irresponsibly, by buying cheap, perishable things, we are harming the environment, ourselves and the economy. Of course, someone will say that consumption is the engine of the economy, but what will the economy stand on when there is no one to work?”, asks rhetorically the head of the Public Enterprise “Circular Economy”.
According to him, only a complexA thorough approach to the problem, which is the responsibility of each of us, can help Lithuania not only to catch up with other countries according to the principles of circularity, but also to become one of the leading states.
“Circularity goes hand in hand with climate change. So either mwe will contribute to a more beautiful and cleaner environment now, or in the future we will live in a world drowning in waste, pollution and natural anomalies. As I have already mentioned, there are definitely opportunities for change, all you need is a desire”, assures D. Tracevičius.