Specialized Training for Professionals on “Circular Economy Practices” within the European Union-funded EU4Environment Action in Armenia

The online training series on “Circular Economy practices” was organized for Armenian experts and professionals, as a part of capacity development action within EU funded “European Union for Environment (EU4Environment Action)” under the Resource Efficiency and Cleaner Production component. The 1st part was dedicated to legislation and examples of circular economy approaches and solutions (used by the different companies in Europe) and was conducted on the 5th of October 2021. The second part of the training covered Armenian RECP business cases (from companies in the dairy, fish and textile production, and using RECP and Circular Economy principles). The cases were developed by the members of the Armenian RECP professional expert network, and their practical application was showcased online on the 26th of October 2021. Representatives of the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Armenia have also joined the training, serving as practical support to the companies' work on the development of   Green Economy strategy (and in support of the EU Green Deal). Led by UNIDO and implemented by the Regional Environmental Centre for Caucasus Armenia, the training focused on the introduction of best practices related to Circular Economy, the refurbishment and recycling of old products and their use in making new ones, and the discussion on recycling and sustainable waste management practices, water, and energy solutions for different industry sectors.

The aim of both trainings was to help businesses navigate the increasingly complex landscape of circular strategies and find the right circular opportunities for them. Discussions included the topics of Circular Economy and recycling practices, and strategies and the practical implementation of circular measures (with examples from SMEs and companies from European countries and from Armenia). The training series was led by the UNIDO Senior Technical Advisor/International Expert, Mr. Johannes Fresner, under the EU4Environment Action.

On the 5th of October, the training was opened by Ms. Anna Mazmanyan, Deputy Minister of Environment of Armenia, Mr. Andrea Baggioli, Cooperation Officer of Delegation of the European Union to Armenia, Mrs. Tatiana Chernyavskaya, EU4Environment Project Manager, and Mrs. Nune Harutyunyan, EU4Environment Action RECP project National Coordinator (Armenia).

The specialized training for professionals on “Circular Economy practices” was divided into two parts (organized on different dates) that focused on harnessing circular economy principles and systems-based approaches to explore ways in which entrepreneurs and professionals can redesign their business systems, products, and services to encourage the transition from a linear to a circular economy. The training audience gathered RECP experts, representatives of the Ministry of Environment and Economy, Civil society, active environmental groups, education institutions, members of the National RECP professional network contributing to the circular economy strategies, policies, and practices.

During the training sessions, the Senior Technical Advisor, Mr. Johannes Fresner, started off with the theoretical and practical part providing coherence and understanding on Circular Economy, presenting examples of circular practices, elements of a circular business model, and applicable strategies for SMEs in Armenia (opportunities, barriers). The presentations were accompanied by case studies, success stories, and other relevant examples. In between, he presented that, by large, today’s manufacturing systems are linear, in the sense that they take raw materials from the environment and turn them into new products, which, after they have fulfilled their purpose, are discarded into the environment.

In this system, the limited raw materials will eventually run out. As a result, within the production processes, waste also accumulates. Additionally, manufacturing processes are often inefficient, leading to further waste of natural resources. In a circular economy, however, materials from old products are reintroduced in the production of new ones. As much as possible, everything is reused, re-manufactured, or, as a last resort, recycled back into a raw material or used as a source of energy. Hence, Circular Economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Circular Economy describes a new way of creating value, and ultimately prosperity, through extending a product’s lifespan and relocating the waste from the end of the supply chain to the beginning - in effect, using resources more efficiently by using them more than once. A circular economy employs reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions.

RECP experts also presented the results of the research conducted for small and medium enterprises in Armenia. The experts introduced the general information about the organizations where they conduct assessments, the production processes/cycles, major inputs/ outputs, as well as their major RECP findings, suggestions, and solutions. Proposals were made for two companies producing dairy products in Vayots Dzor (“Erpin” LLC presented by Dr. Armen Bodoyan) and Lori marzes ("Kara yev Karen" LLC presented by Dr. Susanna Hakobyan); they are to receive and use biogas, to install solar panels in order to make a new product based on whey (such as ricotta), protein powder, and concentrated animal feed. The possibility of obtaining feed additives for fish farms from the waste of fish products for processing companies was also discussed using the example of the "Sevani Ishkhan" LLC (fish product processing company in Gegharkunik marz). Here this approach was proposed by RECP Expert Dr. Liana Margaryan, and is already being used. For the example of "M. Sisakyan" LLC (sewing company in the Lori region) the options for energy-saving solutions and reuse of waste for textile production have been presented by RECP Expert Lilit Apujanyan.