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Agnieszka Sznyk: Circular economy is building our competitiveness

28 of February '24

The closed-loop economy and circularity issues return to the public debate from time to time, but is anything real changing on the issue? Dr. Agnieszka Sznyk of Innowo, a speaker at the upcoming Polish Climate Congress, talks about which direction we should go and why it's so important.

Wiktor Bochenek
: What has changed over the past year, the last time we talked about the circular economy?

Agnieszka Sznyk: Unfortunately, there have been no changes. The Circularity Gap Report shows that the circularity of the global economy is declining. When the report was published 5.6 years ago, it indicated about 9% circularity, now it's 7%.

dr Agnieszka Sznyk

Dr. Agnieszka Sznyk - President of the Board of Directors of the Institute for Innovation and Responsible Development; for years she has been involved in research and development projects for the circular economy

© Courtesy of Innowo

: What is the reason for this?

Agnieszka: There is no clear answer. On the one hand, awareness of over-consumption is growing, legislation for sustainability is changing in Europe, companies are starting to produce more and more responsibly. On the other hand, the world population is growing, and developing countries want to catch up with the standard of living of developed countries, which is absolutely normal.

It's also hard to blame individual consumerism, which is often done. It's the fault of the system and business models, not the decision of one individual.

: How can such an individual strive for change? What should she do if her individual behavior doesn't translate into anything?

Agnes: From my point of view, these individual choices can give, first of all, a good feeling. I don't discourage unconscious consumption and asking important questions. The problem is shifting responsibility for the state of the environment and natural resources to such individual choices. To effectively address environmental threats, change must be systemic and global. Such is not seen so far, and there are even more and more voices saying that environmental topics are no longer relevant because of the armed conflict. Who will deal with the circular economy in the face of the threat of war?

konferencja o zrównoważonym budownictwie

conference on sustainable construction

© Courtesy of Innowo

: And I guess it's difficult to transfer elements of the circular economy to militaries?

Agnieszka: I would say otherwise. The military is a perfect example of a closed loop economy - army equipment is long-lasting, passed between soldiers. These are products made to last, compared to most products in today's economy.

: Coming back to the issue of the circular economy - we are after the change of government. Has anything changed in this field?

Agnieszka: You can see a greater understanding of these topics. I see a willingness to dialogue and talk, although it is difficult to talk about any concrete results yet. This is also an issue raised in the National Reconstruction Plan. On the ministry's part, we see interest, including regarding problems with the Bail Law. Let's remember that the circular economy is a number of areas in which we can build our economic competition.

prezentacja raportu o gospodarce cyrkularnej

presentation of the circular economy report

© Courtesy of Innowo

: Do you see a return to the upward trend of circularity's contribution to the economy?

Agnes: I hope that we will return to this growth, otherwise what we are doing at Innowo would not make sense. Support on the part of those in power could be a huge plus, although the European Parliament elections are the next stage of change and a big unknown.

"Polish Circular Hotspot" - we talked about it a year ago. What other projects are you doing as part of Innowo?

Agnieszka: Polish Circular Hotspot is an initiative and platform that brings together enthusiasts and stakeholders working in the circular economy. It is more than 100 entities with whom we conduct training and educational activities. We are also open to all kinds of initiatives and ideas.

Our flagship project is "Circular Week," this year to be held October 21-27. During Circular Week, we strive to showcase and promote good GOZ practices from Europe and the world, and support the establishment of partnerships for circular transformation.

We are carrying out a project within the EUKI "European Climate Initative" on circular construction, where we talk about strategies, procurement of materials and practical solutions in this area. We also want to talk a lot about this topic over the coming year, but also provide practical guides for the construction sector and look attrends from construction industries. Among the more interesting trends we are seeing are temporary buildings - built to operate for several years. However, this needs to be done with an eye toward using these materials later in the process, which is a challenge for architects.

: In 2024, what could be the flywheel for the development of the closed-loop economy? For example, a change in the law?

Agnieszka: Legal changes have already taken place - such as the PPWR [Packaging and Packaging Waste Proposal - editor's note] directive indicating the use of reusable packaging. We also have the CSRD [Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive - editor's note] on sustainability reporting. This reporting will affect up to several thousand companies in Poland. This will also change behavior, business models in the market, which operate in a linear model. The crises we are facing show the other side of globalization and the elongation of supply chains.

konferencja o zrównoważonym budownictwie

conference on sustainable construction

© Courtesy of Innowo

: So small steps instead of long leaps?

Agnieszka: There will be no revolution here. The global economy is changing, but slowly.

: I asked this question a year ago, but I will ask it again. With what message are you going to the Polish Climate Congress?

Agnieszka: First of all, that climate change is inextricably linked to the circular economy. Circular solutions can help to mitigate these changes, and at the same time keep individuals comfortable enough to live. This is a key aspect that I want to address at the conference. At the same time, I would like to raise the topic of bioeconomy, since Poland stands by this sector. Referring to the current farmers' protests, here we have room to build a competitive advantage. Bioproduction is not only the food sector, but also industrial symbiosis and the use of bioproducts in other sectors, such as construction, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals. Identifying these synergies and supporting the establishment of partnerships is key.

Victor: Thank you for the interview.

interviewed: Wiktor Bochenek


Polish Climate Congress

The Polish Climate Congress - a meeting of experts and professionals involved in climate and environmental protection - will be held in Warsaw on March 19 and 20, aiming to create a platform for establishing cooperation and business-institutional partnerships to accelerate the green transition. The event will be held in three locations (at the Copernicus Science Center, the Copernican Revolutionary Workshop and the Barcelo Powiśle Hotel), in five thematic tracks: Finance, Industry, Local Government, Energy, and Science and Technology. Participation in the event is free of charge.

For more information:

konferencja odbędzie się 19-20 marca w Warszawie

The conference will be held March 19-20 in Warsaw

© Polish Climate Congress

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