Circular economy: the never ending cycle of waste

Global warming is one of the top ten risks that companies consider when defining their business strategies. The circular economy, in this way, contributes to reduce waste, save energy and optimize industrial processes, becoming a relevant factor in this battle for an environment where both direct and indirect emissions must be assessed to reduce them.
The extraction of raw materials from Nature is not sustainable and solutions must be found to continue complying with the quality lifestyle of people, whilst being respectful towards the environment. The human population has tripled in number since the 50s and a linear economy has been imposed by producers and advertising companies. Businesses need to take the lead in the protection of the environment, using the circular economy as a model for their products and finding solutions for waste to convert them into new raw material.
The people chosen in this blogpost have been included in the Top Nordic Professionals Implementing Circular Economy. They are professionals that work hard to introduce this model into businesses and society. Either being CEO, engineers, or researchers, they are building the exact change that Fairforce aims to promote.

Principles and technology

The circular economy is founded on this principle: the waste of a process is the raw material of another one. Once the waste is produced, it can be transformed into a virgin material. Sometimes the technology for doing this is unknown, but once the idea is there, practical solutions can be formulated and developed.
For the sake of our planet, companies need to focus on taking advantage of the new market and exploring how their waste can become the raw material for their own or other companies. The life-cycle of a product should never end, regardless of the form, it has, remaining always in the market. In this way, a new circular economy can grow.

Plastics: a holy material and evil for the environment

Plastic production is rising due to society’s demand and, by 2050, it is expected to increase between 20-30% of current production. It has been demonstrated that recycled plastics are less harmful to the environment than virgin plastics mainly because of their relatively low GHG emissions. Governments, Institutions, and companies should invest in technologies to increase the recovery of plastics.
Hence, producers should take the lead in this aspect, becoming the change by looking for alternatives to reduce plastic waste. We find examples in the fashion industry, where some clothes are already made of recycled plastic from oceans or water plastic bottles. However, there is still a lot of work to do to reduce the amount of plastic waste generated.
Some companies are working hard to reuse plastic waste from the oceans. Nofir, lead by CEO Øistein Aleksandersen, is introducing plastic waste from the oceans to build a circular economy. Plastics disposed of in the oceans of the EU and Turkey are collected to be dismantled and later given new value, transforming them into clothes, carpets, furniture, etc. Other companies approach this model using the new blockchain technology, as Wilhelm Myrer does with Empower, recovering bottles and giving plastic a second life whilst tracing the life of the object.

Waste management

In Europe, 1.75 GT/year of wastes receives treatment for energy recovery or recycling process. Though it is still a very low value, companies need to take the lead in improving this statistic and should aim to recover 99% of their product materials. There are a variety of methods to manage waste: recycling, reusing, transformation, or energy recovery (incineration, anaerobic digestion, etc.). Proper waste management reduces GHG emissions, stopping climate change, and increasing respect towards Nature.
Professor Mika Horttanaimen has been researching this topic, looking for new ways to reduce waste production whilst recovering as much of their energy and materials as possible. One example is with energy recovery of urban waste. When landfilling, GHG emissions can contribute to global warming. Enhancing this recovery could reduce these emissions. Other studies can be found in sewage sludge treatment with phosphorus and nitrogen recovery that create eutrophication polluting water surfaces, contributing to global warming.

Packaging: looking for sustainable solutions

The E-commerce and packaging industry have increased their activity in the last years, and even more during COVID-19 lockdown. The delivery of products to people’s homes increases CO2 emissions due to long distances of transports, but also because of where the packaging comes from.
New packaging techniques are being used by delivery companies, using organic materials such as peanuts, seaweed, and mushrooms instead of traditional cardboard boxes. These materials are waste products of other industries and are thus a great example of a circular economy. Norwegian Johannes Daae can become a leader in this aspect, where he has been working in finding solutions in packaging issues of companies towards a clean planet, helping them designing products and services which make their customers behave in the most sustainable ways.

Sustainability through user’s behaviors and eco-design

Casper Boks and Gry Dah are well experienced in the field of sustainability, focusing during their career in studying the eco-design of products and understanding user’s behavior to collect data for companies.
Eco-design refers to the design of a product that can create a positive impact on the environment by environmental-friendly materials and, indirectly, reducing GHG emissions and pollution in Nature.
Fairforce aims to have the best professionals in our lists to make the change needed for a circular economy and to honor them for their great efforts and green spirit.

Industrial symbiosis: connecting companies to optimize their resources

Industrial symbiosis relates to the connection between companies to reduce the negative impact on the environment. By optimizing the use of water, energy, and raw materials, the use of virgin materials is not needed, and final waste products are either very low or not generated at all.
Professor Annik Magerholm has been working in this area, studying the framework in which companies should work to reduce their negative impact and inviting new companies to join this business model. She supports the research group for Green innovation and Business models and looks at opportunities to stimulate cross-disciplinary research activities at NTNU. She also leads several national and international research projects in global production, environmental management, corporate social responsibility (CSR) and business models for sustainability.
These long experienced and passionate professionals must be recognized and are the people that Fairforce wants to celebrate in our lists to win this battle for Nature.