SS9: Circular Economy and decoupling

Time: Tuesday, 13 October 2015 (12:30 – 14:20)

Location: Dischma

Session Chair: Dr. Nick Harley Florin, University of Technology Sydney, Australia

Session Chair: Eliette Johana Restrepo Gomez, Empa, Switzerland


Municipal Water/Wastewater Agency Services: Shifting from Linear to Circular

Steven E. Sherman

East Bay Municipal Utility District, United States of America

Municipal water/wastewater agencies play an essential role in community well-being. Traditionally, municipal water/wastewater agencies have followed a linear (“take, make, dispose“) mode of thinking based on resource extraction. Often, the model follows this form: a public agency transports water (frequently over great distances) and delivers it inexpensively and without restrictions to customers, who use it liberally once and then discharge it to the wastewater treatment facility, where the public agency treats and discharges it (often without further economic use). Among other issues, water/wastewater agencies use enormous amounts of energy. Drinking water and wastewater systems account for nearly 4% of U.S. energy usage, and emit 45 million tons of greenhouse gases annually. These core service providers must transition to circular economy modes of thinking and programming in order to meet emerging 21st century needs. Some leading municipal water/wastewater agencies in the U.S., notably the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) in California, where the author works, have begun the long shift toward a more circular approach. EBMUD’s wastewater operation has gone from being a major purchaser of electricity to becoming North America’s first publicly-owned wastewater treatment facility that is a net producer of renewable energy, using anaerobic digestion of food waste and conversion of biogas to electricity. In addition, it produces soil products, nine million gallons per day of recycled water, and offers a way (through acceptance of brine wastewater) for California’s key agricultural production area (the Central Valley) to begin to manage the harmful build-up of salt in the region’s soil. Traditional key service providers, such as water/wastewater agencies, can better address 21st century needs by extensively incorporating circular approaches to the definition of issues, articulation of goals, identification of opportunities, and development of feedback loop-based programs that support environmental and economic sustainability.


Policy Mixes for Resource Efficiency – Theoretical and practical challenges

Henning Wilts, Bettina Bahn-Walkowiak, Nadja von Gries

Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment, Energy, Germany

Based on an on-going research project called “Policy options for a resource efficient Europe” (POLFREE), this paper analyses potential policy instruments and their interdependencies in a policy mix for resource efficiency. It focuses on fundamental trade-offs in such a mix and identifies three generic challenges based on an empirical analysis of 27 specific instruments. The innovative aspect of the paper is to go beyond another long list of potential instruments or a mix of instruments, but to analyse them with regard to the theoretical requirements for coherence and consistency. To this end, the paper explores possibilities to go beyond single instruments and integrate them into a consistent and coherent policy mix with relevant synergies between its single elements. It discusses specific instrument design features such as stringency, profitability, predictability, flexibility, differentiation and depth, which are not only of particular relevance in order to analyse their innovation effect, but also as an indication for the effectiveness and efficiency of the instruments as such and the requirements for the analysis of instrument interactions.

Prospecting Secondary Raw Materials in the Urban Mine and Mining Wastes (ProSUM)

Patrick A. Wäger1, Daniel Cassard2, Sarah Downes3, Jaco Huisman4, Vera S. Rotter5

1Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (Empa), Switzerland; 2BRGM, Orléans Cedex 2, France; 3WEEE Forum, Brussels, Belgium; 4United Nations University, Bonn, Germany; 5Technische Universität Berlin, Department of Solid Waste Management, Germany

A compositional characterisation of the urban mine is a necessary prerequisite to optimise the recovery of critical raw materials (CRM). However, existing data is scattered amongst a variety of institutions including government agencies, geological surveys, universities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry. In addition, where data relates to the composition of products and waste fractions, different sampling, sample preparation and chemical analysis approaches may have been used, which makes it challenging to aggregate and compare data. In the EU Horizon 2020 project “Prospecting Secondary raw materials from the Urban mine and Mining wastes” (ProSUM) a comprehensive, standardised and harmonised inventory of CRM stocks and flows will be constructed at national and regional levels across Europe. The scope of the project, which is being carried out from January 1, 2015 to December 31, 2017 by a consortium of 17 partners representing research institutes, geological surveys and industry, addresses particularly relevant sources of secondary CRMs: electrical and electronic equipment, vehicles, batteries and mining wastes, such as processing tailings. As an important part of the project, an EU information network that includes potential data providers and users has recently been launched.

Cost-benefit analysis of WEEE Recycling in Germany – Case study of mobile phones and smartphones

Nicoleta Gurita, Jan C Bongaerts

TU Bergakademie Freiberg, Germany

Scarcity of natural resources and supply chain risks represent one of today’s most vital topics. This issue very much applies to the context of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) sector as well, as its production requires a mixture of various different kinds of raw materials, metals and precious metals, partly classified as critical by the European Commission.The paper analyzes the monetary value of precious and critical metals in selected electronic equipment sold during 2004-2014 in Germany and at global level, as well as the value of the metals stock which is not being put to use. The stocks of critical and precious metals inside mobile phones and smartphones are assessed on the basis of sales volumes. Initially a literature review on the definition of critical metals is being provided, followed by an analysis of the critical and precious metal stock content and monetary value for selected electrical and electronic equipment (EEE). Overall, for the selected EEE, a total stock of 5.6 thousand tonnes of critical and precious metals can be estimated, with a total monetary value of more than € 558 million. However, the short life-cycle of these products combined with their inappropriate disposal leads to a major loss of these metals. Moreover, a cost benefit analysis of the end of life management of mobile phones and smartphones is being realized reaching the conclusion that the potential revenues from recycling these products can be quite significant. Furthermore, the issues and challenges in the German WEEE Management System are also being analyzed with a closer look at mobile phone and smartphone waste streams with the goal of identifying the potential of closing the resources loop.


Implementation of circular economy business models by small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs): Barriers and enablers

Vasileios Rizos1, Arno Behrens1, Wytze van der Gaast2, Erwin Hofman2, Terri Kafyeke3, Martin Hirschnitz-Garbers3, Corrado Topi4, Roberto Rinaldi4, Anastasia Ioannou5, Alexandros Flamos5

1Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS), Belgium; 2JIN Climate and Sustainability, the Netherlands; 3Ecologic Institute, Germany; 4Stockholm Environment Institute – University of York, UK; 5University of Piraeus (UNIPI), Greece

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly aware of the benefits of closing loops and improving resource efficiency, such as: saving material costs, creating competitive advantages and accessing new markets. At the same time, however, various barriers pose formidable challenges to small businesses in their transition to a circular economy, including lack of financial resources and lack of technical skills. The aim of this paper is to increase knowledge and understanding about the barriers and opportunities experienced by SMEs when implementing circular economy business models. It first investigates the barriers that prevent SMEs from realising the benefits of the circular economy. This is done on the basis of a literature review and analysis of SME circular economy business models that are featured on the GreenEcoNet ( EU-funded web platform. Drawing on this review, the paper identifies key areas for continuous improvement in order to better promote circular economy business models among SMEs.