How to make the waste stream circular? Companies

Trends Impact Awards reward SMEs and large companies that have a sustainable impact on their environment. There are six categories and a Global Impact Award for the most comprehensive project. This week we are handing out the Trends Impact Award for circular economy.

1. What is the problem?

The fifth summit of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Nairobi in April provided a commitment that could become crucial in the fight against plastics. At the summit, 175 countries decided that they want to conclude a legally binding treaty against plastic pollution by 2024, from design to recycling.

There really should have been such an agreement already. Although everyone has already heard of the giant plastic soup in the sea, the problem is greatly underestimated. Every year, 11 million tonnes of marine plastic are added. Without action, the amount of plastic will weigh more than the global fish stock in thirty years. The treaty to be concluded in 2024 aims to ensure that 80 percent less plastic flows into the oceans by 2040. It is crucial to make less plastic, but plastic is indispensable for many products.

Plastic is just one example of how the linear economy depletes resources and transfers the external costs of waste management to society. It is about designing products in such a way that the plastic can be recycled in the economy.

2. What can we do?

The economy is in a transition from linear to circular. A circular economy tries to close the cycle by not depleting raw materials, using renewable energy and recycling residual materials. Then there is no waste and natural ecosystems can be restored. There is a key role for product developers. They can design products whose design takes into account the entire product life cycle. You have to know from the beginning what happens to the ingredients when the product is about to be used up – it’s called cradle to cradle or from cradle to cradle.

Businesses can not always do this alone. What is a residual product in one company may be recycled in a completely different sector. It is therefore important that companies have a good overview of the entire economic system in which they operate and that they seek solutions together with other companies and sectors.

3. What projects are we looking for?

“There could be examples of upcycling. A big trend is to collect marine plastic and process it into something useful. Think of a company that makes blankets from fishing nets or uses plastic from bottles to design textiles,” says Wayne Visser, professor of sustainability transition at Antwerp Management School. “We need to eliminate waste and create closed loop.”

“Think of projects that treat past waste streams as a value-creating product,” says Jochen Vincke, partner at consulting firm PwC. “Umicore, for example, recycles materials from electronic waste. This will continue in all industrial processes. How to make the chemical waste flow circularly? Companies are heavily involved in such issues.”

Businesses can also make their office building circular, says Wayne Visser. “A house or an office can produce energy instead of using it, or make the water that enters the building cleaner. We can apply it to so many things. Everything we knew as waste, to recycle it should have a positive effect. ” rather than negative consequences. “

4. Examples from abroad

The German company Knauf recycles insulation wool residues on construction sites, with the aim of reducing construction waste. Previously, a strip of excess insulating wool was simply thrown away. Now it can be used to make ‘bricks’ that serve as raw material for new insulation products.

The Dutch manufacturer of sustainable smartphones fairphone designs its smartphones so that they can be used for as long as possible. The company did this, among other things, on the basis of a modular design, so that people can order spare parts online and repair their device. That way, it lasts longer. At the same time, the company ensures that the smartphone’s components are as sustainable as possible without minerals from, for example, conflict mines.

11 mio tonnes of marine plastic are added every year.

Trends Impact Awards

Companies wishing to participate will read what each category of Trends Impact Awards is all about for six weeks.

May 26: ecology

June 2: circular economy

June 9: inclusion and diversity

June 16: welfare

June 23: digitization

30th of June: resilience

The fifth summit of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in Nairobi in April provided a commitment that could become crucial in the fight against plastics. At the summit, 175 countries decided that they want to conclude a legally binding treaty against plastic pollution by 2024, from design to recycling. There really should have been such an agreement already. Although everyone has already heard of the giant plastic soup in the sea, the problem is greatly underestimated. Every year, 11 million tonnes of marine plastic are added. Without action, the amount of plastic will weigh more than the global fish stock in thirty years. The treaty to be concluded in 2024 aims to ensure that 80 percent less plastic flows into the oceans by 2040. It is crucial to make less plastic, but plastic is indispensable for many products. Plastic is just one example of how the linear economy depletes resources and transfers the external costs of waste management to society. It is about designing products in such a way that the plastic can be recycled in the economy. The economy is in a transition from linear to circular. A circular economy tries to close the cycle by not depleting raw materials, using renewable energy and recycling residual materials. Then there is no waste and natural ecosystems can be restored. There is a key role for product developers. They can design products whose design takes into account the entire product life cycle. One must know from the beginning what happens to the ingredients when the product is at the end of its life – it is called cradle to cradle. Businesses can not always do this alone. What is a residual product in one company may be recycled in a completely different sector. It is therefore important that the companies have a good overview of the entire economic system in which they operate and that they seek solutions together with other companies and sectors. ” There may be examples of upcycling. A major trend is the collection of marine plastics and processing. it to something useful. Think of a company that makes blankets out of fishing nets or uses plastic from bottles to design textiles, “says Wayne Visser, professor of sustainable conversion at Antwerp Management School.” We need to eliminate waste and create closed circuits. “” Think on projects that treat previous waste streams as a value-creating product, “says Jochen Vincke, partner in the consulting company PwC.” Umicore recycles e.g. materials from electronic waste. This will continue in all industrial processes. How to make the chemical waste flow circularly? Businesses are heavily involved in such issues. “Businesses can also make their office building circular,” says Wayne Visser. “A house or office can produce energy instead of using it, or making the water that enters the building cleaner. We can apply it to so many things. Everything we knew as waste, recycling it should have a positive effect. “Rather than negative consequences.” The German company Knauf recycles insulation wool residues on construction sites with the aim of reducing construction waste. Previously, a strip of excess insulating wool was simply thrown away. Now it can be used to make ‘bricks’ that serve as raw material for new insulation products. The Dutch sustainable smartphone manufacturer Fairphone designs its smartphones in such a way that they can be used for as long as possible. The company did this, among other things, on the basis of a modular design, so that people can order spare parts online and repair their device. That way, it lasts longer. At the same time, the company ensures that the smartphone’s components are as sustainable as possible without minerals from, for example, conflict mines.

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