Circular economy and the role of standards

Overview of the circular economy concept

Around the world, the concept of circular economy was first introduced in the 1980s by Walter R. Stahel, a Swiss architect, with the original name “self-replenishing system (product-life extension)”. This system consists of four loops: reuse, repair, reconditioning and recycling.

Recently, the butterfly diagram model of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is being widely used, providing a detailed graphical diagram of the activities involved in the transition towards a circular economy. The concept of circular economy is now also standardized in the international standard ISO 14009:2020 Environmental management systems — Guidelines for incorporating material circulation in design and development which is “A systematic approach to the design of business models, enabling sustainable management of raw materials in products”.

Standardization associated with circular economy in the world

With the important role of the standard, in order to strongly contribute to promoting the development of the circular economy, in 2018, the International Organization for Standardization ISO established a standard technical committee on the ISO circular economy ISO/TC 323. General objective to strengthen and promote activities for sustainable development.

This technical committee is working on developing standards related to requirements, frameworks, guidelines and supporting tools for the promotion of the circular economy. Members of the technical committee come from 70 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe including Viet Nam and 15 observer members (updated until September 21, 2021).

In 2019, the European Commission also had many activities to promote standardization related to the circular economy and announced: “As the world’s largest single market, the EU can set standards standards applicable to global value chains. The European Commission will continue to develop new standards for sustainable growth and use economic weight to shape international standards to align with EU expectations on the environment and climate.

These standards will also promote trade in environmentally friendly goods and services and support global and EU markets for sustainable products.”

Even the OECD is asking for standards that support a positive shift towards a circular economy. The OECD addresses the need to harmonize quality standards for materials for repairable and remanufacturable products (especially for export) and appropriate quality assurance standards for raw materials input.

For international standardization activities in the circular economy, international, regional and national standardization organizations have all developed relevant standards. In which, technical committee ISO/TC 323 Circular economy focuses on developing framework standards, guidelines, supporting tools and operational requirements of relevant organizations in order to maximize their contribution to the global economy. sustainable development.

Currently, there are 6 drafts under construction: ISO/WD 59004, Circular economy – Framework and principles for implementation; ISO/WD 59010, Circular economy – Guidelines on business models and value chains; ISO/WD 59020.2, Circular economy – Measuring circularity framework; ISO/CD TR 59031, Circular economy – Performance-based approach – Analysis of cases studies; ISO/DTR 59032.2, Circular economy – Review of business model implementation; ISO/AWI 59040, Circular Economy – Product Circularity Data Sheet.

In addition, other technical committees of ISO as well as other standardization organizations such as IEC, UL, ETSI, EN, BS… also develop standards related to different aspects of circular economy. Some of the widely used standards include: ISO Guide 84:2020 Guidelines for addressing climate change in standards; ISO 26000 Guidance on social responsibility; ISO 14009:2020 Environmental management systems – Guidelines for incorporating material circulation in design and development; IEC 62430 Environmental Conscious Design (ECD); UL 3600 Outline of Investigation for Measuring and Reporting Circular Economy Aspects of Products, Sites and Organizations; EN 45552 General methods for assessing durability, remanufacturing, repair, reuse, upgrade, recyclability, reused components, recycled material, critical raw material, material efficiency aspects of energy-related products; ETSI TR 103 476 Environmental Engineering (EE); Circular Economy (CE) in Information Communication Technology (ICT); BS 8001 Framework for implementing the principles of the Circular Economy in organizations – Guide

Circular economy and the role of standards in Viet Nam today

Building a circular economy has been identified as one of the country’s development orientations for the period 2021-2030 in the Document of the 13th National Party Congress. Although there is no national program framework on circular economy, the content of circular economy has been reflected in many national development strategies and policies in the past period, such as:  Congress Resolution The 13th National Representative of the Party set out the country’s development orientation for the period 2021-2030, stating: “Building a green, circular, and environmentally friendly economy”;

The Law on Environmental Protection in 2020 stipulates that “Circular economy” (Article 142) is the socio-economic development strategy and is considered as one of the preferential policies, supporting and developing the environment economy, which will contribute to the development of the environment economy, in accelerating economic development in Viet Nam;

Decision 889/QD-TTg dated June 24, 2020 of the Prime Minister approving the national action program on sustainable production and consumption for the period 2021-2030 with the overall goal of “Promoting the management, exploiting and effectively and sustainably using natural resources, fuels and raw materials, encouraging the development of environmentally friendly, renewable and renewable resources, fuels, raw materials and products use and recycling; promote sustainable production and consumption on the basis of innovation, practice and develop sustainable production and consumption models, promote sustainable domestic production and consumption, create stable jobs and green jobs, promoting sustainable lifestyles and improving people’s quality of life, towards the development of a circular economy in Viet Nam”.

To form and develop a circular economy, Viet Nam needs a clear legal corridor; It is necessary to conduct extensive research on the development of the circular economy from a general global approach, principles established by industry, field, and criteria of the model, from which to choose to apply specific applications in actual situation of Viet Nam. The development of the circular economy needs to be based on industries, fields and localities that have been implementing economic models close to the circular economy approach, thereby completing and making suitable choices for each industry, but must be based on existing models such as 3R models (reduce, reuse and recycle waste) deployed in our country in the past time.

Regarding the transformation of the traditional economy to a circular economy, although there are no fully adequate circular economic models, there are actually a number of models that are close to the circular economy. by industry, profession and service. Typically in the field of industry, handicrafts in traditional craft villages have used scraps, by-products and wastes from industrial production to produce recycled steel, recycled paper, recycled plastic, nylon, and glass…

However, these activities mainly bring financial benefits to producers and consumers, without taking into account the overall economic benefits. This is also one of the main causes of environmental pollution and degradation in many localities today.

In the field of agriculture, with a number of key fields such as growing rice, fruit trees, fisheries and animal husbandry, thousands of tons of organic waste have been released into the environment, which is a beneficial resource for the agricultural activities and for many other fields. However, this resource is being wasted.

On the basis of clarifying the concept as well as the basic principles of the circular economy, it is necessary to research and propose orientations to develop the circular economy model such as the models of utilization, recycling, recovery, etc. waste in agricultural production in the direction of a circular economy… for people, businesses operating in the agricultural sector and state management agencies.

In the field of industry and trade, the cleaner production model has been promoted and widely applied. According to statistics of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, up to now (2020), nearly 350 enterprises and production facilities have been supported for rapid assessment, 90 enterprises have been supported to apply cleaner production to become models of using cleaner production. In addition, there are a number of models also deployed by the Ministry of Industry and Trade such as: Developing and implementing a pilot model of alternative energy use and an energy-saving household model; Applying the energy management model in industrial facilities; Building, disseminating and replicating successful demonstration models on alternative energy use in production and business establishments in many provinces and cities across the country; Develop, deploy and replicate demonstration models of households using renewable energy forms (such as solar, biogas, etc.) on industrial scale.

In 2020, Viet Nam has established a technical committee TCVN/TC 323 Circular economy. This technical committee is working on developing a number of standards in the field of circular economy. In addition, Viet Nam has also developed a number of related standards such as:  TCVN ISO 26000:2013, Guidelines on social responsibility; ISO 14001:2015, Environmental management systems – Requirements and guidance for use; TCVN 8000:2008 (ISO 15270:2006), Plastics – Guidelines for recovery and recycling of waste plastics; TCVN 12049:2017 (ISO 13686: 2013), Natural gas – General requirements for quality; ISO 14067:2020, Greenhouse gases – Product carbon footprint – Quantitative requirements and guidance. However, the development of these national standards only comes from the needs of each field, not according to an orientation and master plan to develop circular economy models and transition to a circular economy.

It is necessary to develop a list of TCVN and implementation roadmap to promote circular economy transformation in Viet Nam

In three days from September 7-9, 2021, the Sub-Committee on Standards and Conformance (SCSC) of APEC organized a workshop with the theme Standardization in Circular Economy for a more sustainable trade, attracted the attention of many experts from member economies and regional standardization organizations, with four main themes: Circular economy initiative from standards-setting organizations;

Policy-making approaches to circular economy of APEC member economies; Standards and Conformity that support international trade, sustainability and the circular economy; Good practices use industry standards and conformance to support the circular economy.

This conference showed that with the important role of standards in all areas of social life, to support an effective transition from a linear economy to a circular economy, promote development comprehensive and sustainable development of the circular economy, the research, development and completion of a complete and synchronous standard system, especially in the fields of industry, agriculture and services is one of the essential and essential tasks.

This research should be carried out on a range from studies assessing the status of standardization activities in the circular economy in Viet Nam, studying international experiences and studying requirements for standardization activities for the development of circular economy of Viet Nam.

From there, a list of TCVNs needs to be developed in order to create frameworks, guidelines, supporting tools and requirements for the implementation of activities of relevant organizations, in order to maximize the contribution for Sustainable Development Goals and circular economy development in Viet Nam in the coming period.

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