Ambassador of Finland to Latvia Olli Kantanen: "Use and throw away" culture is outdated

A commentary "Use and throw away" culture is outdated by Ambassador of Finland to Latvia Olli Kantanen in Latvijas Avize on 30.6.2017 

The global economy of the 21st century needs to adapt to the limited natural resources of our planet. The circular economy offers an avenue to new kind of growth and jobs while saving our environment and its natural resources. The Nordic and Baltic countries can be global leaders in this development.

The current linear economic model where the goods are produced, used and ultimately just dumbed as waste is no more valid. This kind of "use and throw away” culture is not sustainable with regard to world´s raising population and demand for natural resources. It is also less and less tolerated by today´s consumers.  Instead we need new smarter ways to act.  One solution to the existing global challenges is called the circular economy.

There are many ways to define a circular economy. However, one of the bearing ideas of a circular economy is to keep the existing resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use and then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. Many businesses and governments are in the midst of a paradigm shift or taking steady steps towards the circular economy model. It can already be described as an important economic megatrend.

With this background, it is no wonder that a couple of weeks ago (5.-7.6.2017) the first World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) in Helsinki brought together around 1700 experts and decision-makers from more than 100 countries. This truly global event, organized by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, saw top businesses, civil society and government representatives to discuss and showcase the best circular economy solutions. Also many Latvian experts participated. 

Among the Helsinki meeting participants there was a clear common understanding that circular economy is one of the answers to the big challenges of our time. Circular solutions can make an enormous impact when working towards the ambitious UN Agenda 2030 and Sustainable Development Goals as well as tackling the climate crisis and implementing the Paris Climate Agreement.

It is also obvious that circular economy can present new opportunities to create wealth and well-being.  By acting smartly we will make our economies more competitive and resilient and at the same time relieve the pressure on our precious natural resources and the environment.  

A circular economy involves a fundamental change in the way we produce, consume and dispose products. Thus, collaboration and innovation across sectors are needed when moving towards a circular economy. It is important that the European Union functions as a leader and a key global player in this development. Working together on the circular economy will help us to promote new jobs, social cohesion and prosperity in our region and societies. 

I strongly believe that the innovation friendly Nordic and Baltic countries belong to those actors who can come up with new smart and resource effective solutions making us the global leaders in circular economy.  If you are interested to learn more about the circular economy I would advise you to join the discussions at this year´s  LAMPA festival  in Cesis on Saturday, July 1. One of the panel discussions is titled  “Together is Better. Producing Sager Results. How to live greener in Northern Europe and Latvia”. It will include leading experts from Finland, Denmark, Norway and Latvia discussing circular economy as well as the importance of working together to find the best solutions to our common challanges.