Based on first-hand experience and expertise provided by the wider RREUSE network, the data was drawn from RREUSE’s annual member survey and several semi-structured interviews for the year 2019. The statistics show that social enterprises active across a diverse range of re-use oriented activities on average create 70 jobs per 1,000 tonnes of material collected. Looking at product-specific re-use focussed activities such as textiles and electricals, both of which will be subject to forthcoming EU policy action plans, up to 35 and 140 jobs per 1,000 tonnes collected are created respectively.
Michal Len, director of RREUSE, commented, “These figures shed light on the labour-intensive nature of re-use activities. By curbing the use of resources whilst providing local and inclusive employment opportunities, social enterprises contribute to a resilient low-carbon economy, essential for a just and green transition”.
This briefing is relatively unprecedented as the research and publicly available figures regarding employment opportunities in the field of re-use remains scarce. There is a growing need for thorough and comprehensive data collection to improve understanding of the socio-economic impacts of re-use as well as to implement targets in the circular economy domain and monitor progress towards them. As Michal Len highlighted, “If the EU is serious about putting re-use at the heart of its circular ambitions and backing it by quantitative targets, there must be adequate scaling of investment and support into research on employment potential, skills and social value created by the sector”.
With this contribution, RREUSE hopes to provide valuable insights into the field of re-use and inspire European policymakers working towards an inclusive and job-rich recovery linked to the implementation of the Circular Economy Action Plan and the upcoming Action Plan for the Social Economy. As a starting point, RREUSE established a non-exhaustive list of policy recommendations supporting job creation in the circular economy, notably in the re-use sector:
- Provide greater public investment into data and research concerning the contribution of the circular economy to job creation, social impact, assessment of skill shortages and trends in employment
- Formalise and mainstream circular skills development programmes at national level
- Ensure that EU funding mechanisms such as ESF+ contribute to scaling-up the development of inclusive jobs, skills and innovative circular business models
- Support stronger guidance and leadership in the uptake of green and social clauses in procurement
- Ensure that tax regimes favour labour intensive services contributing to a circular economy e.g. reduced or zero percent VAT on labour costs associated with re-use and repair and the sale of second-hand goods
- Ensure that the re-use sector is encouraged and backed by ambitious waste prevention, re-use and preparation for re-use targets in EU and national waste laws with a view of supporting both environmental and social considerations
- Improve the quality of goods entering the EU market through repairability and durability requirement