This research project critically reviewed literature and monitored on-going research projects to: identify and characterise emerging risks for plant, animal and human health and the environment related to the circular economy, resulting from new hazards and new exposure pathways.
Circular economy is an approach that decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, designs out waste, opposes the take-make-consume-waste linear economic model and replaces it with an economic model based on sharing, leasing, reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling, in an almost closed loop. Change from a linear economy to a circular one is expected to significantly support the attainment of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production). However, the design and implementation of circular economy requires careful consideration of the numerous trade-offs that may emerge. This is a pre-requisite for the attainment of the SDG 3 (Good health and well-being).
During the transition to a circular economy, it is crucial to identify potential emerging risks for the environment and food and feed safety in a holistic and integrated fashion in order to achieve an optimal balance between opportunities, benefits and risks. It is necessary to ensure that food and feed safety and environmental health considerations are incorporated at an early stage of research or policy initiatives linked to recycling and the circular economy.
The project had three objectives:
1. To identify and categorise current and envisaged circular economy practices within all stages of the food and feed supply chain in Europe.
2. To identify emerging risks for plant, animal and human health and the environment related to circular economy, resulting from new hazards and new exposure pathways leading to increased exposure, by conducting a systematic search of the scientific literature and monitoring on-going research projects.
3. To characterise the identified emerging risks by providing the available information justifying the definition of emerging risk, relevant for EFSA’s prioritisation and risk assessment activities.
The final report has been published as an EFSA supporting publication and can be accessed here
Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Anthony Millington (Harper Adams University) and Paul Whaley (Lancaster University) for their work on this research.
European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Harper Adams University