Costa Rica: First steps of the Quality Infrastructure for the Circular Economy in the Plastic Industry
Costa Rica has launched a project in accordance with the initiative Capacity Building in Technical and Scientific Organizations Using Regional Experiences and Knowledge (CABUREK) in Latin America and the Caribbean, for the Quality Infrastructure for Circular Economy (QI4CE) project promoted by Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB) of Germany, which seeks the integration between the circular economy (CE) and the quality infrastructure (QI) of economies.
The Costa Rican national project is called “Creating bridges between the QI and the plastics industry that applies the CE in Costa Rica” and its objective is to generate a national base to support the CE through the QI for the plastic industry and governments, applying the “CALIDENA” methodology from PTB. The project started in October 2021 and ends in September 2023. It is being led by the Costa Rican Accreditation Entity (ECA) with participation from the Costa Rican Institute of Metrology (LACOMET) and Institute of Technical Standards of Costa Rica (INTECO).
The Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) is currently developing a National Circular Economy Strategy and coordinates an inter-ministerial committee for the circular economy, in which other public institutions, private entities and university representatives also participate. One of the most important challenges is how the circular economy is measured and evaluated, for which QI institutions are seeking to support the search for international standards and accreditation schemes among other tools that can be developed or adopted to respond to this new national strategy.
Costa Rica is also working with Ecuador under the QI4CE project but with a regional approach. The objective of this second project is to develop a tool for measuring and assessing the circular economy, including a set of cost models and indicators. As reference, it is using the ISO standards being developed by ISO/TC 323 with an emphasis on economic and cost evaluation that allows for evaluation of the progress of circularity in the different regions of the countries, taking into consideration the application to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and the quality infrastructure, including accreditation. This project is expected to be completed in July 2023.
Costa Rica has adopted a broad political framework in support of sustainability that includes global policies such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Convention to Combat Desertification. At the national level, there is a series of regulatory instruments that highlight the importance of sustainable development, which includes economic, environmental and social spheres. These include the National Bioeconomy Strategy (in which a circular bioeconomy is proposed, highlighting the circular economy as a guiding concept for a new productive development), the National Sustainable Production and Consumption Policy, the National Decarbonization Plan, and the National Biodiversity Strategy, among others.
Moreover, the Interinstitutional Bioeconomy Committee, coordinated by the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT), in conjunction with the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Commerce (MEIC), the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) and the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), is working on implementing the National Bioeconomy Strategy, launched in August 2020. Additionally, MINAE is currently developing a National Circular Economy Strategy and coordinates an inter-ministerial committee for circular economy, in which other public institutions, private entities and university representatives also participate. The MICITT and the MINAE have developed these initiatives in response to suggestions made by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), as part of Costa Rica’s ascension process to that organization.
It is important that within this political framework, the country’s accreditation and quality infrastructure be seen as tools to support issues relating to the circular economy, conformity assessment, and measurement. Quality infrastructure contributes to policy objectives in areas including industrial development, trade competitiveness in markets, the environment and climate change, among others.
The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that supports economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection, thus supporting the fulfilment of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. It is important that accreditation, standardization and metrology are included in the process of transitioning to a circular economy, together with the government entities that draft relevant policies and strategies, to provide confidence and recognition in the national and international markets.
The potential contributions of the quality infrastructure to the circular economy in Latin America and the Caribbean are:
- Harmonized terminology and conceptual clarity of the circular economy
- Responsible production and consumption culture
- Public policies and enabling regulatory framework
- Trust, traceability and interoperability of information
- Competitive products and services
- Scientific, technological and innovation base
Complying with international standards and robust accreditation and conformity assessment schemes will allow the trade of products to be more transparent. Additionally the circular economy will generate new sources of employment and diversification of industries.
Source: Canelas-Santiesteban, E., Harmes-Liedtke, U., Valqui, A., Flores-Campos, M., Lugo, G., Liewald, W., Rivadeneira, M. 2022. “Quality infrastructure for the circular economy in Latin America and the Caribbean”, Documents for the infrastructure of America’s Quality, Number 1, First Edition.
Results and impact
At the national level, the workshop “Construction of the Value Chain of the Plastic Industry in Costa Rica” was carried out in order to determine the current needs of the main actors in the plastic sector to strengthen the capacities of the institutions of the National System for Quality (accreditation, standardization and metrology) through the development of services that facilitate the application of circular economy principles in their processes. The workshop was held on 03, 04 and 08 November 2022 with more than 25 strategic allies.
As a result, a proposal for an action plan was prepared based on the high-priority issues identified as well as the existing gaps between the plastics industry and the quality infrastructure, including the need for accredited national laboratories to carry out tests in compostable and biodegradable plastics, among others.
In addition, a monitoring committee was formed for the implementation of the activities established in the circular CALIDENA action plan, in which the government sector and the plastics industry are participating until September 2023.
Also, ECA, LACOMET and INTECO are participating in the working groups that are drafting the National Circular Economy Strategy and its policy, ensuring that quality issues in terms of accreditation, metrology and standardization are taken as the basis of the proposals.
The objective of the regional project between Ecuador and Costa Rica is to develop a tool for measuring and assessing the circular economy, including a set of cost models and indicators. As reference, it is using the ISO standards being developed by ISO/TC 323 with an emphasis on economic and cost evaluation that allows for evaluation of the progress of circularity in the different regions of the countries, taking into consideration its application for SMEs, and the quality infrastructure, including accreditation.
Mariluz Quirós López, Ente Costarricense de Acreditación (ECA)
Fernando Vázquez Dovale, Ente Costarricense de Acreditación (ECA)