Policy Brief – Bio-based Circular Economy in Europe



Policy Brief
Bio-based Circular Economy in Europe

September 2018


Circular Economy Enabling Sustainability

Sustainability, in terms of economic models, is defined as the achievement of current needs without directly or indirectly compromising the needs of future generations. This is closely linked to circular economy (CE). CE differs from an ‘unsustainable’ traditional linear economy by introducing a cyclical flow model. CE represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits (Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2017). CE promotes an environmentally sound use of resources and the idea of new business models. According to the definition (European Commission 2015), CE aims at enabling the maximization of resource efficiency and minimization of waste production, benefiting the environment and tackling production costs at the same time.

Circular Economy Benefits in Numbers

Switching to a CE in the food, mobility and built environment sectors is estimated to generate a prospective reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 48% by 2030 and 83% by 2050 compared with 2012 levels. The annual net benefits for EU-27 businesses from implementing resource-efficiency/CE measures, such as waste prevention, the recovery of materials, changing procurement practices and the re-design of products are estimated to range from EUR 245 billion to EUR 604 billion, representing an average of 3–8% of annual turnover. (European Environmental Agency 2016)

Circular Economy Policy Framework in the EU

The term CE was presented in the EU context in 2011 through the Flagship Initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy concerning a resource-efficient Europe. The initiative stated that there was a need for a strategy to make the EU a ‘circular economy’. In 2015, the European Commission released a CE package, proposing a series of actions towards CE. With the aim to boost efficient production, the roadmap stipulates that Member States should help companies work together to make the best use of the waste and by-products they produce e.g. by exploiting industrial symbiosis.

Towards Bio-based Circular Economy Implementation

‘Bioeconomy’ can be defined as an economy where materials, chemicals and energy are developed and derived from renewable biological resources. In the Bioeconomy Strategy (European Commission 2012), bioeconomy is defined as an economy that relies on renewable biological resources (e.g. crops, forests and animals) and their conversion into food, feed, products, materials and energy. Bioeconomy includes agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food production, and pulp and paper production, as well as parts of the chemical, biotechnological and energy industries.

Τhe bioeconomy touches a large number of policy areas. It should, thus, be faced through horizontal policies and be taken into consideration at several levels. Twinning bioeconomy and CE together could lead to strong synergies. Implemented policies shall origin from identified good practices in order to establish a bioeconomy that uses bio-based resources in a circular way, forming the idea of bio-based CE.

EU Bioeconomy Strategy Update

The 2012 EU Bioeconomy Strategy will be updated during this year. Due to recent policy developments, the update of the strategy was necessary to ensure better focus and alignment with the EU political priorities and future challenges. The update will reinforce a sustainable circular bioeconomy in Europe (European Commission 2017).

According to BIOREGIO, strengthening the circularity and sustainability of bioeconomy shall be the core issues of the expected update. The importance to understand the effect of bioeconomy on natural resources and ecosystem services should be of outmost priority, while a deeper exploration of the relations between biosphere and economic activity is needed for better understanding of bioeconomy. One important challenge is strengthening education and knowledge for bioeconomy to be successful in all sectors, especially in agriculture, agri-food value chain and bioenergy production. Therefore, it is important to identify value-added activities that support investment in production, research, processing, retail & marketing (European Commission 2018).

Good Practices in Bio-based Circular Economy

To achieve CE, the European Commission (2015) states that national, regional and local authorities are in a key role in enabling the transition. Consequently, CE requires efforts at different scale levels to reach a holistic approach.

The BIOREGIO project is identifying and promoting bio-based CE in six European regions. Transferable and replicable good practices on bio-based CE comprise cooperation models, such as ecosystems and networks, and best available technological solutions are shared and applied in other EU regions. Good practices recognized in the project are available at:



BIOREGIO conducted a study on bio-based CE in selected national and regional EU strategies. The results and conclusions were presented at the Waste Management 2018 conference in Seville, Spain 17.-19.9.2018. The article will be available online in November 2018.

The original policy brief in English is available at the BIOREGIO website: https://www.interregeurope.eu/bioregio/library/#folder=1289

This policy brief reflects the BIOREGIO project’s view; the Interreg Europe programme authorities are not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.



Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017. Circular Economy Overview. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/overview/concept

European Commission, 2012. Innovating for Sustainable Growth: A Bioeconomy for Europe. COM(2012) 60 final. http://ec.europa.eu/research/bioeconomy/pdf/official-strategy_en.pdf

European Commission, 2015. Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy. COM(2015) 614 final. https://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:8a8ef5e8-99a0-11e5-b3b7-01aa75ed71a1.0012.02/DOC_1&format=PDF

European Commission, 2017. Review of the 2012 European Bioeconomy Strategy. https://ec.europa.eu/research/bioeconomy/pdf/review_of_2012_eu_bes.pdf#view=fit&pagemode=none

European Commission, 2018. Feedback from: BIOREGIO project consortium on the EU 2012 Bioeconomy Strategy, http://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/initiatives/ares-2018-975361/feedback/F10485_en

European Environment Agency, 2016. Circular economy in Europe: Developing the knowledge base. EEA Report, No 2/2016. doi:10.2800/51444. https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/circular-economy-in-europe