The preparation of a roadmap for the circular economy in Slovakia
The Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic supports the ambitious goals of the European Green Agreement. Achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 will require the transition of the Slovak economy to a circular model based on the conservation of natural resources, but also on the reduction of environmental pollution, waste generation and greenhouse gas emissions. In this context, the Ministry of the Environment is cooperating with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the European Commission on the project “Preparation of a roadmap for the circular economy in Slovakia”. The Ministry of the Environment has prepared a stakeholder meeting on the priorities of the future roadmap, which are food and other bio-waste, but also economic instruments for sustainable consumption and production. Another important topic is the construction sector, which was discussed at a workshop in November 2021.
At the meeting on the circular economy roadmap, the key findings of the analyzes presented by OECD experts as well as the Dutch institution Wageningen University & Research. Representatives of the private sector, academia and NGOs were also heard. The Ministry of the Environment and the authors of the studies were interested in their views on the identified barriers to the transition to a circular economy in Slovakia, as well as on the proposed measures and recommendations on how to implement this transition.
Rastislav Zamboj, General Manager of the Circular Economy Section of the Ministry of the Environment, emphasized the need for cooperation with stakeholders: „If we want to thoroughly prepare and successfully implement the future roadmap and its measures, it is necessary to involve all stakeholders.“ He added that the main ambition of the Ministry of the Environment is to preserve the value of raw materials that currently end up in landfills and to make production and consumption sustainable.
Mauro Sibilia, project manager at DG REFORM, representing the European Commission, emphasized that this reform was fully in line with the European Commission’s priorities and had the potential to have a significant impact on our lives at many levels: from industrial processes to local government activities, from energy markets to food shopping, from international manufacturing companies to individual consumer behavior.
Food and other bio-waste
Food and biowaste in general are topics that resonate in Slovakia. In preparing the roadmap, the Ministry of the Environment focuses primarily on the role and potential of food and biodegradable waste in the circular economy. A study on the Slovak value chain of food and other biowaste identified 9 potential areas for improvement and proposed measures in this regard.
One area for improvement is food waste and possible ways to prevent waste. The debates focused on, for example, food donation, the amendment to the Food Act no. 376/2016 Coll., which allows the use of food after the expiration date for charitable purposes, as well as measures concerning the labeling of food shelf life.
Dr. Hilke Bos-Brouwers, a senior researcher at Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, said: „Closing the loop in the food and bio-waste value chain will require an approach that systematically prioritises prevention, food donation, recovery of animal feed by-products and composting before incineration and landfilling. A wide range of complementary policy instruments can support the necessary stakeholder cooperation, consumer and business education, sustainable business models and create an effective regulatory environment. and composting before incineration and landfilling. A wide range of complementary policy instruments can support the necessary stakeholder cooperation, consumer and business education, sustainable business models and create an effective regulatory environment.“ According to her, the key to success will be the availability of reliable, high-quality and comprehensive data for measuring food and other bio-waste at sectoral level.
Experts pointed to the need to remove various legislative barriers and supplement the missing legislation. Only in this way can Slovakia become a “pioneer of the circular economy” within the Visegrad Group (V4) or even the region of Central and Eastern Europe. Attention was also paid to the need to close the food and other biowaste cycle and improve soil quality.
Economic instruments can significantly support the transition to a circular economy. The analysis prepared by OECD experts focused on a wide range of tools – such as landfill fees, waste-based payment schemes (PAYT), extended producer responsibility (EPR) systems, as well as green public procurement (GPP). The analysis also deals with the eco-modulation of fees within the EPR system, but also with other possible measures to support the ecodesign of products.
According to Katarína Svatíková, analyst from the Environmental Directorate, an analysis of the use of economic instruments for the transition to a circular economy in the Slovak Republic shows that there is considerable scope for further development and application of such policies. As she said: „Economic instruments offer the prospect of achieving environmental results at lower economic costs and at the same time support innovation. The forthcoming roadmap for the circular economy can be helpful in setting the direction for their wider use.“ The debates highlighted the need to adapt economic instruments to individual regions, emphasized the need to analyze the impact on domestic producers and the importance of educating consumers before setting up fiscal schemes. The need for inter-ministerial co-operation was emphasized as necessary to ensure a faster and more efficient transition to a circular economy.
Positive feedback, constructive comments and next steps
During the meeting, the participants expressed clear support for the transition to a circular economy and praised the studies prepared, in particular their quality and scope, and provided constructive feedback that would contribute to the finalization of the documents.
The project will end in May 2022, when the final meeting will take place and its results will be presented. The outputs of the project will be processed into a national document and submitted to the Government of the Slovak Republic. The most fundamental phase will follow – translating the measures into practice in order to support the transition of the Slovak economy to a circular model.
The project is funded by the European Union through the Structural Reform Support Program (SRSP) and implemented by the OECD in cooperation with the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Structural Reform Support (DG REFORM). The SRSP provides tailor-made technical support to EU Member States for the design and implementation of growth-enhancing reforms. The project was launched in October 2020.
Progress on waste management
In addition to preparing a roadmap for circular economy, the Ministry of the Environment is also working to improve waste management and finance separate collection, which has long been neglected in Slovakia in the past. The Ministry of the Environment takes measures to ensure the viability of waste management financing and also to ensure that waste is sorted, recycled and landfilled as little as possible. For the first time, the Ministry of the Environment competently calculated the real costs of collecting, transporting and recovering materials. The big news is that sorting participants have to keep transparent accounts so that the public, but also the producers of goods, can verify their effectiveness. The ambition of the Ministry of the Environment is to move to a model of circular economy, where the value of raw materials is maintained as long as possible in order to minimize waste, and at the same time greening consumption and production.
Published by CVTI