Established and increasingly widespread practices
An A+ grade for the 3Rs
So the term circular economy combines two words that resonate positively with Europeans, especially when its semiotic boundaries are clearly defined. Better still, without necessarily being aware of the fact, they are resolutely engaged in applying the three Rs on which the principle relies: Recycle, Reduce, Reuse.
Again, a fairly clear geographical divide can be observed between the Western and Northern countries, on the one hand, and the Eastern nations, on the other. But there is also a generational divide, even if it is less pronounced, with the over-50s generally appearing more committed, irrespective of the R in question.
Waste sorting and recycling in general are the most widespread examples of the practices applied by Europeans (Fig. 4). More than 6 out of 10 Europeans do so regularly, with the Italians topping the list, closely followed by the Austrians, the Spanish and the Swedes. In contrast, the Bulgarians are by far the least diligent in this respect.
Waste reduction is also commonly practised. 46% of Europeans state that they have tried to cut down. And once again, the Italians prove to be the most virtuous when it comes to this aspect of the circular economy. This time around, the Czechs are the least committed.
The third R, the re-use of products, either through their sale, donation or repurposing, is regularly performed by 43% of Europeans. Once more, the Italians and the Czechs can be found at the top and at the bottom of the international ranking, respectively.
Practices that are becoming increasingly established over time
While Europeans show a positive attitude to taking part in the circular economy, it is even more encouraging to see that they intend to ramp up their commitment in the future.
Indeed, 1 in 2 Europeans declare that they have recycled more and reduced their waste over the last three years (Fig. 5). This time around, there is little geographical segmentation to speak of. The Italians, Poles, Danes and Romanians lead the way in this area, while the Germans, Bulgarians and Norwegians bring up the rear.
Much like the first two practices, which have been around for longer, the re-use of products has increased substantially over the same period, with 44% of Europeans reporting that they are making greater efforts in this area.