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Data regulation for the circular economy

A very good article in the Tagesspiegel by Stefanie Moser and Nora Sophie Griefahn about a digital product passport and the demand to develop common legal frameworks for it. We would also like to contribute to this; hence some observations, examples and suggestions.

Continuous circular value creation is only possible if products circulate endlessly in biological or technical cycles and do not have to undergo downcycling.

Ideal scenario? Yes. But material is lost in every refurbishment or recycling process. We have to accept that above all and look for better solutions step by step, even for the material that is lost first.

The DPP already creates the conditions to enable this continuous circular value creation.

Exactly! By now recording products in passports, we gain insight into the composition and materiality of our products. From there, we can start improving. Moreover, the digital product passport cannot and will not be a one-off. The true value is expressed through constant updating during product use, ensuring the end-of-use solution.

The building becomes the material warehouse of the future.

Exactly! After all, a building, a product, is a collection of materials for a certain function and for a certain time. If we want to use urban mining structurally to conserve materials, we need to know what materials we can recover. Then recording is essential.

However, in order for the DPP to unfold its potential, binding rules are needed that are oriented towards the goal of circularity, which data should be collected by whom and shared with whom, and which standards should be taken into account – in short: circularity data governance.

Here too: In an ideal world, there are clear framework conditions that everyone abides by. Reality teaches us that although there is a lot of discussion, the rules are created at a rather slow pace. That’s why we argue: let’s get started and help shape data governance ourselves. Stefanie and Nora point out that there are already solutions for different sectors, but what we are doing is a solution that applies to all sectors. If it turns out that our system needs to be adapted to new, jointly designed regulations, we will of course do so! Just start, guide and adapt as we go along.

Policy makers need to understand and use the DPP as a market design tool.

We all have to shape these standards together. Think about the way we use email today. There is competition and email programmes implement the concept in different ways, but there is a common language in which we exchange data. This language must also be available to DPPs. This can be done by policy makers, but the market can also produce a standard; that is why we have already started.

There is great potential for circular value creation in cross-sectoral cooperation.

Again: agreed, although this is not a major obstacle. With product or material passports, it is already possible to downgrade or upgrade a product and convert it into something new. The integration of component passports into complex end products is the next step that needs to be taken, but again, within the current technological possibilities, this is absolutely no obstacle! C_passport® supports both closed loops and material pooling.

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