site.btaWrap-up: Sofia Forum Discusses Circular Economy Policies and Practices in Bulgaria
A Sofia forum discussed Thursday circular economy policies and practices in Bulgaria. It brought together businesses, government officials, diplomats and NGOS to present and discuss public policies and programs, current and future projects. The forum was co-organized by GBCIC the The German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GBCIC) and ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA.
The conference had two panels: one on public policies and programs, one on best practices from the business community.
BTA was a media partner of the event.
The head of the German-Bulgarian Chamber of Industry and Commerce in (GBCIC) Bulgaria, Mitko Vassilev, voiced expectations that the circular economy will become increasingly popular with businesses. He said that transitioning to a circular-economy business model is consistent with the efforts to fight climate change, which means that this model is sustainable. "The companies that succeed to create new business models, that are innovative, efficient and environment-friendly will be truly successful and competitive," said Vassilev.
Philippe Kupfer, Commercial Counsellor at the Austrian Embassy in Sofia, said that climate change, which is visible even here, calls for designing new economic models and making sure products are reused and their life cycle is extended. In his words, the circular economy can increase economic growth by up to 5% of the GDP. He said that Austria is third in the introduction of the circular economy and Germany is 6th, while Bulgaria is lagging behind.
The growing demand for raw materials and energy resources, especially in the face of scarce supply, encourages interaction between businesses and researchers in the pursuit of innovative solutions in industry, said Stefan Alexandrov, an expert at the Environment and Water Ministry. The use of materials in Bulgaria amounts to 141 million tonnes or 2.4% of the EU average, the chief expert said. More than 60,000 people are employed in the circular economy sectors, or 1.7% of the EU total. In 2020, Bulgaria imported 171 million tonnes of raw materials and exported 27 million tonnes. At the end of the cycle, over 90% of the material flow is managed as waste as 90% is landfilled, and only 2.7 million tonnes is recycled. In terms of circular economy policies and legislation implemented and initiated in the Environment Ministry, the National Waste Management Plan 2021-2028, adopted last year, is of key importance. The new targets for 2035 which are set out in the Waste Management Act, are to achieve recycling rates of up to 65% for municipal waste and to limit landfilling to 10%, said Alexandrov.
Green Sofia project leader Elitsa Panayotova presented the project and said it aims to improve cooperation between the city authorities, businesses, NGOs and citizens, in tackling the problems. One of the tasks of the project is to prepare Sofia's bid for Green Capital of Europe: the competition of the European Commission, which aims to motivate city authorities to prioritize sustainable and green urban development. The circular economy is part of this process. The issues that Sofia needs to address as a matter of priority include air quality, green spaces, urban mobility as well as waste management, said Panayotova. Food is also part of the circular economy and the first gardens for urban agriculture have already opened in Sofia. There is no way to talk about circular economy and sustainable development without realizing the importance of green spaces, Elitsa Panayotova added.
Asya Gekova of the Sofia-based Net Zero Foundation International Climate Network said that Bulgaria is performing worst among the 27 EU member states in implementing the circular economy and ranks among the top 10 member states with the biggest carbon footprint from food. Gekova said that her organization focuses on the European Green Deal, trying to maintain dialogue about it at the European level. She spoke in favour of the introduction of digital passports and energy labelling of products to let customers know how much energy was saved in making a given product. According to her, the benefits of the circular economy are that it boosts the potential for GDP growth, allows manufacturers to save up to 70% on input materials, provides new employment opportunities and well-paid jobs, and makes a lasting contribution to a sustainable economy. Waste containers can be equipped with sensors to detect various types of waste and save time for recycling and making second-hand products, Gekova went on to say. Blockchains are a new trend in the circular economy. They can be used to trace the life cycle of products. The repair of electric appliances, apparel and footwear reduces the carbon footprint and creates jobs, Gekova noted. The Net Zero Foundation aims to disseminate objective information and analyses on the European green deal and global trends in controlling climate change and carrying out the green transition, to identify and promote Bulgarian expertise in this field and help implement all aspects of the green deal.