Earth Times Logo
RSS Feed Google+ Facebook Twitter Linked In Pinterest



The Circular Economy and the Global Economy

By Dave Armstrong - 26 Jul 2016 9:0:0 GMT
The Circular Economy and the Global Economy

The North Cape is a dreaded place in some ways, in the far Arctic north of Norway. However, this happy group have obviously conquered the cold and celebrate a progressive future for their technology.

North Cape image; Credit: © TOMRA

From reverse vending machines and sorting technology is quite a step for those who wish to change whole economies. However, with this recycling background, TOMRA have become well-known in several countries. As market leaders, they have the power to encourage what their CEO calls a circular economy. This concept of a circular economy is not an alien one, but is something that will require significant effort to achieve a change in the way that global governments, businesses and people think.

At TOMRA, they place significant emphasis on maximizing resource value and utilization, which contributes to the principles of the circular economy; to keep products, components and materials at their highest value and create a clear distinction between both technical and biological cycles. This ethos is integral to the resource revolution, but challenges remain in relating to nations - and the business and sectors operating within their borders - that embracing the circular economy can have a direct impact on the global economy.

Natural resources are a kind of capital and must be handled and controlled in a way that preserves this. Balancing the flows of renewable resource is effectively a case of weighing ecology against economy and generating a cyclical process where the lifespan of resources is maximized through reuse, evolution and intelligent thinking, while the cost of doing this is kept low. Efficiency versus effectiveness always a consideration, but embracing the circular economy creates a natural synergy between the two and illustrates that a considered approach to the use and reuse of resources can have tangible long-term impacts, not only on the environment, but the economy.

Technology has a major role in achieving this, with advances in certain fields helping to bring about new approaches that can help maximize the value of resources and – crucially – reduce waste. Sensor-based solutions play a key role in optimizing resource productivity, particularly in the fields of waste management and recycling, where sensor-based technology can be used to increase precision and streamline processes. To achieve the ambitious aim of a circular economy, it is necessary to employ state-of-the-art approaches that push boundaries, and reverse vending and waste separation processes each help to achieve this by recovering materials and providing valuable insight into the composition of these materials. The efforts of TOMRA can be seen if you link to them, using Google for the phrases mentioned above. The result is a greater understanding of where efficiencies can be made to maximize costs and minimize waste and also improve the utilization of resources across other use cycles, cut emissions and many other inefficiencies.

Ultimately, every business seeks to protect its bottom line and avoid unnecessary expenditure, but to achieve this, a long-term view must be balanced against short-term aims, and this is particularly true where the use and reuse of resources is concerned. Every sector is different, and in industries such as mining, the impact of actions taken now may not be felt for years or even decades, which necessitates decisions being made as early as possible. Being able to precisely sort newly mined materials before they are transported to the preparation plant can help to minimize environmental impact.

Similarly, in the food industry, where a lot of produce is wasted, optical sorting technology can help to reduce waste and ultimately maximize the yield, which has a direct impact on profits while addressing the problem of wasted resources and an under-supply of food. The European Commission’s Circular Economy Package includes clear targets for forming a long-term approach to waste management and recycling, including recycling 65 per cent of municipal waste and 75 per cent of packaging waste by 2030. It is clear that a combined effort from governments, industry bodies and the public will be required to help achieve these aims. As we are all forced into cutting carbon emissions, this recycling boom for companies can aid them, help economies and in the process, cut pollution quickly and effectively. TOMRA approach this sensibly and despite their advertising, we are publishing this epistle, mainly penned by their CEO, Stefan Ranstrand to appeal to all business interests to join in. Here was an approach to the recycling business by Robb Parlanti a few years ago, but have we made progress since then? That is the question.