A European Commission forum has this week highlighted the latest developments, benefits and challenges for civil society and public administrations, not to mention businesses across Europe, and hosted the EMAS Awards for eco-efficiency. 

The other day I provided a bunch of resources to help with resource efficiency.  This coincided with preparations for the 16th European Forum on Eco-Innovation, entitled “Wasted potential! Towards a circular economy in cities”, held on Monday and Tuesday this week in Hanover, Germany, during the world’s leading trade fair for industrial technology, Hannover Messe

It was opened by the German Federal Environment Minister, Barbara Hendricks, and the European Commissioner for the Environment, Janez Potočnik. They both emphasized the need to take a holistic approach, going beyond waste management. "In times of crisis, economic and financial arguments have become overwhelming. We must simply not waste the potential of waste”, said Commissioner Potočnik. 


Opening speeches by Janez POTOČNIK, Member of the EC in charge of Environment, and Barbara HENDRICKS, Federal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

High level participation came from business leaders, senior public officials, municipalities and civil society organisations. Engineers, entrepreneurs and scientists also joined the forum which was linked to the Metropolitan Solutions and IndustrialGreenTec fairs.

The German Federal Environment Minister welcomes the 16th EcoInnovation Forum with a speech on the transformation agenda. 

Each year, in the European Union alone, three billion tonnes of waste is discarded. Valuable amounts of usable commodities are lost, as only a small share of them is traded on second-hand markets or recycled. At the same time, and to comply with the revised European legislation on waste coming this spring, further efforts by local authorities are needed to improve their waste management systems.

The conference examined ways of avoiding this waste of resources, energy and human labour, with a smart approach to integrated infrastructures inspired by the principles of circular economy.

Eco-Innovation

Eco-Innovation is any form of innovation resulting in or aiming at significant and demonstrable progress towards the goal of sustainable development, through reducing impacts on the environment, enhancing resilience to environmental pressures, or achieving a more efficient and responsible use of natural resources.

Organised by DG Environment in the context of the European Eco-innovation Action Plan (EcoAP), the biannual European Forum on Eco-innovation brought together around 200 specialists from the worlds of research, industry, policy, finance, civil society and business. 

  • Gunter Pauli, from Blue Economy, underlined the need for a new growth strategy, via a transition from a 'green' to a 'blue economy' in which we generate more value, innovate for more jobs and competitiveness.
  • Christian Hagelüken, Director of EU Government Affairs at Umicore, called for innovative business models, saying that a systems approach and new opportunities for cooperation are crucial for the evolution towards a circular economy. "The material and technology perspective needs to be combined with the product perspective including product design, consumer behavior, costs and logistical aspects," he said.  
  • Stuart Whitman, of the Ellen McArthur Foundation, which works to enable transition to the circular economy, gave a presentation on decoupling resource and economic constraints and how it could lead to long-term benefits for the economy as a whole.
  • Appropriate product design and the need for a new infrastructure for reuse were also leading issues for many participants.
  • ACR+, a network of cities and regions who share the aim of promoting smart resource consumption and sustainable management of municipal waste through prevention at source, reuse and recycling, called for the creation of an international network whereby regional and city administrations can learn from each other in implementation of the circular economy in urban areas.  
  • Eighteen case studies from cities and companies demonstrated successful implementation of projects such as innovative city planning approaches based on the circularity principle (city of Amsterdam), zero waste projects, principles for sustainable design (city of Hannover), and social enterprises as initiators of change in policy (repair cafes), among others.
  • The forum was closed by Karl Falkenberg, Director General for Environment at the European Commission, and Olaf Lies, Minister for Economy, Labour and Transport of the State of Lower Saxony. Karl Falkenberg showcased the European Green Capitals as leading examples of cities moving towards circular economy, while raising awareness among citizens.

The EMAS Awards

EMAS award winners
The EMAS award winners.

In parallel with the Forum were two side events:

The EMAS Award winners in six categories were announced by Commissioner Potočnik during a prestigious Ceremony at the New Town Hall Hannover, hosted by Mayor Stefan Schostok. Winning companies came from Greece, Sweden, Germany, Austria and Spain (more information).

In the public sector, the winners were:

  • Aeropuerto de Menorca (Menorca airport, Spain), managed by Aena Aeropuertos SA, for significantly reducing its water consumption by reusing waste water treated in a membrane bioreactor plant, and significantly reducing electricity use through an automatic climate and lighting control system.
  • Umwelt BHaus 2019undesamt, the German federal scientific agency for the environment, for building the first zero-energy public building in Germany, ‘Haus 2019’ (right), in 2013. The Haus' shell is airtight and it gets its electricity from renewable sources, including photovoltaïcs and a heat pump that obtains energy from pumped groundwater. Haus 2019 fulfils the EU legal requirements on energy efficiency for public buildings six years in advance, and should encourage others to follow.

The ETV Stakeholder forum was an opportunity for 55 participants to discuss the results of the 1st year of the programme, proposing concrete ways for ETV to provide added value to technology users in the context of public market and the industrial supply chain.

More info: