On June 18 CRNI had the opportunity to present to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action about the vital role social enterprises play in promoting the circular economy, especially in relation to consumer durables. We were joined by two CRNI Board members, Bernie Connolly (Cork Environmental Forum) and Una Lavelle (Recycle IT) and CRNI member, The Rediscovery Centre was also invited to the committee session to present their findings.

Circular Economy as it relates to Consumer Durables: Discussion transcript 
Watch the full debate video

Here’s a summary of the key points CRNI presented in our opening statement:

The Impact of Social Enterprises

Social enterprises are crucial to the circular economy. Annually, across Europe, these enterprises divert about 1 million tonnes of materials from landfills through activities like reuse, repair, and recycling. This not only benefits the environment but also generates a turnover of €1.2 billion and engages 95,000 employees, volunteers, and trainees in these activities.

Challenges in the Sector

Despite the dedication and longevity of some CRNI members, the circular economy in Ireland is still developing. Key challenges include:

  • Insufficient funding for ongoing activities and long-term planning
  • ‘Broad brush’ legislation and licensing create threat for social enterprise exclusion and lacks enabling factors
  • Difficulty acquiring large or appropriate premises
  • Lack of formal accreditation or recognised qualifications for training
  • Limited access to trainers and labour for upskilling
  • Inability to compete for large procurement contracts due to scale and undercutting by private sector actors
  • Rising insurance costs and inadequate coverage for innovating
  • Restrictive VAT rules

Enabling Growth and Sustainability

To overcome these challenges and scale up, social enterprises need the same opportunities as traditional businesses in terms of financing, premises, and personnel. We advocate for:

  • Favourable operational conditions for social enterprise start-ups and growth
  • Insurance access and reduced VAT on goods and services for reuse, repair, and recycling activities
  • Dedicated circular economy funds for community-based activities, informed and strategic investment
  • Mainstreaming the circular economy with effective awareness campaigns to change consumption habits
  • Procurement processes that enable social enterprises to compete, potentially through consortium frameworks

CRNI advocating for supportive government policy

Government policies are crucial in promoting the circular economy. CRNI engages with policymakers to develop a supportive policy landscape that includes tax incentives, regulatory frameworks, and long-term funding opportunities for social enterprises.

By addressing these challenges and implementing supportive policies, we can ensure that social enterprises continue to be key enablers of the circular economy, benefiting both the environment and the community and ensuring the development of an inclusive circular economy.

  • June 20, 2024

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Our funders

EPA Circular Economy Programme

CRNI supports its members and works to mainstream reuse thanks to core funding provided by the EPA under the Circular Economy Programme.

For more information about the programme see here.

Project Funding

Waste Regions Logos

Green + Social Virtual Trade Fair

CRNI’s Green + Social Virtual Trade Fair is funded by Ireland’s Regional Waste Management Plan Offices. This innovative virtual platform is open 24/7 and gives visitors the opportunity to explore green and social procurement opportunities provided by reuse, repair and recycling social enterprises and community-based organisations across Ireland.

Access the Green + Social Virtual Trade Fair here.

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