‘Circular economy’: Turning waste into reusable products makes food and energy production more sustainable
We need to find a way to reduce waste, and the answer could be moving to a circular economy, which seeks to design out wastage by making use of byproducts and reusing materials. “The circular economy is an excellent way to deal with many of the major crises that we are facing,” says Anne Velenturf, a circular economy researcher at the University of Leeds. “Producing stuff takes a lot of energy, and if we make better use of our products then we also save much of the carbon embodied in them.” Half of the world’s insulin comes from this factory in Kalundborg, Denmark, and its production relies on vast fermentation tanks full of yeast broth. Manufacturer Novo Nordisk passes its spent yeast slurry to Kalundborg Bioenergi to make biogas. “Any leftovers, you can put on the fields as fertilizer,” says Kalundborg Bioenergi CEO Erik Lundsgaard.
The circular economy has infiltrated the board rooms of Australian and New Zealand water utilities, according to a new report. Now to put these ideas into action. Bricks made from biosolids (bacteria and urea found in human urine) could play a role in circular water system in Australia that avoids heavy metals, microplastics and other pollutants ending up in our waterways. According to a recent Water Services Association of Australia report on water management in a circular economy, organic building materials like this tick several boxes for a circular economy as they can be returned to the biosphere at the end of their useful life. The “Bio-Bricks” invention is just one of many interesting technologies identified in the report. Another valuable material that could be extracted from urban waterways for circular economy purposes, WSAA chief executive Adam Lovell says, is hydrogen.
This circular economy is a baby step towards a regenerative economy. And only this will save capitalism.
To make the circular economy work, organisations need to purchase products that have been made from recycled materials. But many materials, especially when they have been contaminated, cannot be recycled. They face a gradual downward slope ending in heat death incineration. It’s about increasing entropy – that is to say, disorder. For which, read usefulness. There’s only so many times paper and plastic can be recycled. There’s only one principle in existence on planet Earth that reverses entropy, creating order from chaos, usefulness from dust – and that is life. Life’s organising principle, from the cell, through organisms, ecosystems, and up to the ecosystem of the entire planet, is what gives us life and our life support system.
Renault is going to turn its Flins factory outside Paris into a research, recycling and repair centre and will generate more than 1 billion euros in sales from circular economy. Renault’s chief executive Luca de Meo told the french “du dimanche” that the company will will seek to generate more than 1 billion euros in sales from the so-called “circular economy” by turning its Flins factory outside Paris into a research, recycling and repair centre. “Our ambition, by 2030, is to achieve more revenue (from recycling and repair at Flins) than from assembling cars there,” said de Meo. “And to generate more than a billion euros in turnover in the circular economy.”
Solar is already in the vanguard of the energy transition, and can similarly lead the world’s transition to a circular economy. Decommissioned PV modules could total 1 million tons of waste in the U.S. by 2030. Yet there are virtually no incentives or regulations to promote its recycling or reuse. In fact, says NREL, most current regulations in the U.S. define it as solid waste, making it difficult to introduce it to a recycling value chain. In some instances the waste, defined as hazardous, is prohibited from reuse. Incentives are so poor that companies that do recover in bulk leave behind high-value materials such as silver, copper, and silicon. The main reason is that, at the national level, statutes or regulations that explicitly address PV module recycling simply don’t exist yet. Fortunately, state and industry models are being created.
World Circular Economy Forum: partners, leading experts discuss Africa’s post COVID-19 sustainable recovery
The African Development Bank organized a high-level session on fostering inclusivity and circularity in Africa’s post COVID-19 recovery. The virtual event was part of the 2020 World Circular Economy Forum Online(link is external), an annual conference hosted by the Finnish Innovation Fund SITRA, which attracted more than 5,000 business leaders, policymakers and experts to present the world’s best circular economy solutions. The Bank is a strategic partner of the African Circular Economy Alliance (ACEA), a country-led coalition of African nations and global partners committed to advancing the transition to a circular economy on the continent.