IJAT Vol.14 No.6 pp. 857-866
doi: 10.20965/ijat.2020.p0857


Potential Impacts of the European Union’s Circular Economy Policy on Japanese Manufacturers

Yasushi Umeda*1,†, Kazunori Kitagawa*2, Yayoi Hirose*3, Keiko Akaho*4, Yuko Sakai*5, and Makoto Ohta*6

*1The University of Tokyo
7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo, Tokyo 113-8656, Japan

Corresponding author

*2Japan Productivity Center, Tokyo, Japan

*3Toyo University, Tokyo, Japan

*4The Nikkan Kogyo Shimbun, Ltd., Tokyo, Japan

*5Toyota Motor Corporation, Tokyo, Japan

*6The 21st Century Public Policy Institute, Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), Tokyo, Japan

May 25, 2020
July 17, 2020
November 5, 2020
circular economy, industrial policy, Japanese manufacturers, business model, digital transformation

While the European Union’s (EU) Circular Economy policy package includes various aspects, such as waste treatment, plastics recycling, reduction of food waste, and remanufacturing, it is essentially an industrial and employment promotion policy. In regard to the promotion of circular businesses, including remanufacturing, product-service system (PSS), and digital platforms, this policy may change the shape of the EU market and the core of market competition. However, many Japanese manufacturers are not aware of the difference between the circular economy and the traditional 3R (reduce, reuse, and recycle) policy and are unfamiliar with the impacts on business competition. The objectives of this paper include an analysis of the EU’s Circular Economy (CE) policy and its potential impacts on the Japanese manufacturing industry (as a representative of a non-EU manufacturing industry). First, we summarize the EU’s CE Policy and analyze its meaning. Second, as examples of CE implementation, we introduce Ecodesign Directive “Directive 2009/125/EC” and the European companies, Siemens and Veolia. Then, we discuss the implication of EU’s CE policy; its double-layered structure, the different attitudes toward CEs among European and Japanese companies, and some notes taken from a CE that may be of importance to Japanese manufacturers. Companies are suggested to be proactively integrate sustainability with their main business activity. Finally, this paper points out key enabling technologies. While there are a lot of technologies related to ecodesign, process technologies, business strategy and planning, and digital technology, an indispensable technology for realizing a CE, is life cycle engineering, which synthesizes a sustainable circulation system, by integrating the technologies mentioned above. We also illustrate a hypothetical scenario in which the traditional manufacturing industry transforms into a life cycle value creating industry.

Cite this article as:
Y. Umeda, K. Kitagawa, Y. Hirose, K. Akaho, Y. Sakai, and M. Ohta, “Potential Impacts of the European Union’s Circular Economy Policy on Japanese Manufacturers,” Int. J. Automation Technol., Vol.14 No.6, pp. 857-866, 2020.
Data files:
  1. [1] European Commission, “Closing the loop – An EU action plan for the Circular Economy,” 2015. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  2. [2] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “Towards the Circular Economy Vol.1: an economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition,” 2012.
  3. [3] European Commission, “Circular Economy Action Plan,” 2020. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  4. [4] European Commission, “The European Green Deal,” 2019. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  5. [5] European Commission, “Directive on establishing a framework for the setting of ecodesign requirements for energy-related products,” 2009. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  6. [6] European Commission, “Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment,” 2012. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  7. [7] European Commission, “Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment,” 2011. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  8. [8] European Commission, “Directive on end-of life vehicles,” 2000. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  9. [9] European Commission, “Ecodesign Working Plan 2016-2019,” 2016. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  10. [10] L. T. Peiró, D. Polverini, F. Ardente, and F. Mathieux, “Advances towards circular economy policies in the EU: The new Ecodesign regulation of enterprise servers,” Resources, Conservation & Recycling, Vol.154, 104426, doi: 10.1016/j.resconrec.2019.104426, 2020.
  11. [11] International Organization for Standardization, “TC323 Circular Economy,” 2019. [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  12. [12] United Nations Development Programme, “Sustainable Development Goals.” [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  13. [13] J. W. Sutherland, S. J. Skerlos, and F. Zhao (Eds.), “26th CIRP Conference on Life Cycle Engineering (LCE),” Procedia CIRP, Vol.80, pp. 1-774, 2019.
  14. [14] [Accessed October 12, 2020]
  15. [15] A. H. Hu, M. Matsumoto, T. C. Kuo, and S. Smith (Eds.), “Technologies and Eco-innovation towards Sustainability,” Springer, 2019.
  16. [16] Y. Umeda, S. Takata, F. Kimura, T. Tomiyama, J. W. Sutherland, S. Kara, C. Herrmann, and J. R. Duflou, “Toward integrated product and process life cycle planning – An environmental perspective,” CIRP Annals – Manufacturing Technology, Vol.61, No.2, pp. 681-702, 2012.

*This site is desgined based on HTML5 and CSS3 for modern browsers, e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera.

Last updated on Jun. 03, 2024