Many recent studies showed that the vast use of resources used by mankind is growing due to global population growth and increasing living standards. Although Europe leads the world in recycling and is a major player in manufacturing, the service aspect and service innovation is very low. This can be improved through a ‘Circular Economy Business Model’ approach that is based on a vision of shift towards services.
The concept of a circular economy has recently gained traction in European policymaking as a positive, solutions-based perspective for achieving economic development within increasing environmental constraints.
In March 2019, the European Commission published a comprehensive report on the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan, which was adopted in December 2015 "Closing the loop: Commission delivers on Circular Economy Action Plan’". The action plan sets out a large number of initiatives, which address all stages of the life cycle, combined with concrete targets on waste and the development of a monitoring framework, in cooperation with some relevant European agencies and bodies.
Bearing in mind all the above mentioned, the EU takes important steps towards a circular economy in Europe, but is still in its infancy, since only around 10 % of the materials used in the European economy are recovered and reused. In essence, a circular economy represents a fundamental alternative to the linear take-make-consume-dispose economic model that currently predominates. This linear model is based on the assumption that natural resources are available, abundant, easy to source and cheap to dispose of but it is not sustainable, as the world is moving towards, and is in some cases exceeding, planetary boundaries (Steffen et al., 2015).
Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines a circular economy as one that is restorative, and one which aims to maintain the utility of products, components and materials and retain their value (EMF, 2015a). The benefits of a transition towards a circular economy in Europe could be considerable, reducing environmental pressures in the continent and beyond and minimising at the same time its an increasing dependence on imports. Increasingly, this dependence could be a source of vulnerability. Growing global competition for natural resources has contributed to marked increases in price levels and volatility.
Circular economy strategies could also result in considerable cost savings, increasing the competitiveness of Europe’s industry while delivering net benefits in terms of job opportunities. The “Circular Economy” refers to the concept of saving natural resources and of reusing and recycling them. It is a more profound approach than the solely technical (end-of-pipe) concepts of the waste management sector and focuses on the active participation and capacity building of citizens. It is an increasingly relevant, popular and attractive theme that is being boosted by major economic, ecological and political stakeholders worldwide.
The aim of the CI-You project is to help further improve the level of green business culture in Europe by providing the youth with knowledge and concepts in the field of the circular economy. A need analysis, conducted before the project in the partner countries, showed that CE initiatives are few with limited social and environmental impact. This can be improved through an innovative ‘Circular Economy Business Model’ approach, based on the vision of a shift towards services and the transformation of jobs and skills for a resource-efficient, inclusive and circular economy. Among the objectives of the project are the following:
1) To lead the young people to CE and make it attractive for them so that they will be able to promote and exploit career opportunities in this field
2) To develop a clearly defined CE business strategy for young entrepreneurs towards the creation of ‘green’ jobs
4) To create flexible learning resources, capable of providing, evaluating and recognizing the key competencies that enhance the youths’ capability to employ themselves or to be
employed in the CE sector.
5) To enable young people, educators, youth organisations, policymakers and other stakeholders to understand the principles and benefits of CE to the environment and to the
6) To roll out the concept of CE business on a wider domestically and outside the EU scale, to support integrated policies and address current barriers to the implementation of the principles of CE into businesses strategy and goals.