Authors: Aimee Forcada, Luca Polidori
In recent years, the critical role of people in transitioning towards a circular economy has become increasingly apparent. The choices and behaviours of citizens as consumers can significantly influence future sustainability decisions. The FRONTSH1P project recognizes the power held by citizens and seeks to harness it as catalyst for ambitious environmental change.
FRONTSH1P targets four priority sectors: Wood Packaging, Food and Feed, Water and Nutrients and Plastics/Rubber waste. Detailed strategies for these sectors, based on data-driven analyses, are being developed with the goal of creating systemic solutions that can be replicated in other European regions. For instance, in the wood packaging sector, one of the initiatives involves promoting and facilitating the recycling of pallets and packaging materials among local businesses and households.
The project’s initial phase takes place in the Region of Łódzkie, which plays an important role in the European context due to its strategic location and its pioneering approach to Circular Economy. This region serves as a prototype for gauging the effectiveness of local solutions tailored to specific socio-economic needs.
One example of these localized strategies is the planned “Festival of Circularity of the Łódz Voivodeship”, scheduled for June 2024 on the territory of the municipality of Parzęczew, that will encompass several activities aiming to increase the awareness of concepts related to circular economy and the 6R´s Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repair. The festival’s success will be evaluated using metrics such as participant engagement, changes in waste segregation practices, and shifts in consumption habits among festivalgoers. In addition to public events, FRONTSH1P is spearheading initiatives targeting specific demographic groups, like residents of social housing and degraded blocks. By providing training and guidance on repairing household items, this initiative aims to address repairability deficiencies and extend the life of household products. These workshops are projected to reduce waste and the carbon footprint of the region, with a broader goal of fostering social entrepreneurship within these communities.
On the other hand, behavioural change cannot happen if the right conditions and interventions are not created; Legislation, international cooperation, and intelligent market incentives must align to drive change. In response, FRONTSH1P will launch a Social Innovation Incubation Programme by the project’s end. This program will propose a set of policies at regional level, aiming to establish a supportive legislative framework for circular economy practices. The combination of bottom-up and top-down political initiatives should create dynamics strong enough to support the delivery of positive change.
The project also recognises the importance of education in driving behavioural change. In collaboration with knowledge institutes, universities and research centres, FRONTSH1P will develop teaching modules covering the full range of educational levels. As a “cascade teaching” experience, students from a higher level will create innovative ways of passing on the knowledge acquired to the youngest ones, thus fostering an intergenerational exchange of sustainable practices. This should translate in a meaningful impact since young citizens´ voice can shape future policies and decisions of the next generation.
In conclusion, The FRONTSH1P project, financed by the European Commission and anticipated to continue its operations until 31 October 2025, aims to adopt several strategies that place citizens and their involvement at the centre. By addressing community-specific issues and fostering circular practices, it supports the European Green Deal transition by fostering the acceptance that circular economy is a win-win game and through the upscaling of the circularity potential and replicability of the results.