REDUCES project arrived at a very good moment for Bulgaria, a country which is still lacking behind in the development of policy framework and showcasing good number of business models following the principles of the circular economy. If we take the European Union as an example, 13 of the 27 member states have a ready-made national strategy for the development of the circular economy.

In Bulgaria, after public procurement held on April 6 this year, the Ministry of Environment and Water signed a contract for the preparation of a national strategy for the period 2021–2027 and is still not yet ready. What is missing in society is a serious structured debate about the directions of development of this transition.  

In the process of the Status Quo report development, Associated Professor Nikolay Sterev from University of National and World Economy, Sofia shared that “increasing the level of CE in Bulgaria needs also the change of business stakeholders. Nevertheless, the CE changes are smoother if they are done “inside-outside”, resp. from the business model to the Business Environment, instead of “outside-inside”, resp. from the Governmental restrictions to the Business behavior”. 

The Bulgarian case shows increasing the level of Recovery and Recycle, but it is still far away from the level of Recovery and Recycle in the developed countries. The statistical evidences are not sufficient to state that Bulgarian business model shifts form LE (linear economy) to CE and from Recovery and Recycle to change into Reuse and Reduce. 

A positive sign of improvement based on the statistics is the growth of Recycled materials but still the share of recycled waste is 2 times below the average European level. At the same time, the trade of recycled material, as a result of Reuse and Rethink is more than 7 times less. 

The real business model change from LE to CE approaches could be more easily done with the promotion of the lessons learnt by the developed countries. The best practices, that could be multiplied in Bulgaria, cover all the 5 CE business strategies models as defined by the REDUCES project: 1. Product-life extension; 2. Product as a service; 3. Renewability; 4. Shared platforms; 5. Resource efficiency. 

The good thing is that in Bulgaria there is a serious movement of the green startup ecosystem. There are a number of good ideas that, with a little expert push, could become circular products and/or services. This is obvious from the good practices cases the Bulgarian partners in REDUCES project were able to identify so far. The start-ups demonstrate CE business models in areas like product as a service, renewability and shared platforms. Innovative product design and packaging offer tremendous opportunities to shift from a linear economy to a circular economy. 

Large multinational companies operating in Bulgaria from the raw material industry are also actively working towards a circular economy. The research of the UMG team, shows that the practices that the companies in the industry implement in their work are mainly in the area of resource efficiency and contribute to the sustainable development at local and national level.   

UMG has a direct contribution to support the "Product as a Service" and "Sharing Platforms" circular economy business models. The university is the first of all higher Bulgarian schools, which placed electric car charging stations on its territory and in this way the University Management believes to contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions, exhaust gases and dust particles in the atmosphere.  

Bulgaria has a long way to go to contend with the pioneers of circular economy within Europe. The country does however have a wealth of human capital, with a multitude of qualified engineers, scientists and R&D institutions increasing the potential for a well-monitored transition to a circular economy. The good news is that the journey has started. 

Vihra Andonova
Euro Perspectives Foundation

Vessela Petrova
University of Mining and Geology "St. Ivan Rilski"