SS8: Circular economy and decoupling 

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

Location: Flüela

Session Chair: Dr. Michal Miedzinski, Technopolis Group, Belgium

Session Chair: Prof. Kiichiro Hayashi, Nagoya University, Japan


Challenges to the transition to a circular economy: understanding of the web of constraints to more efficient use of resources

Teresa Domenech1, Marc Dijk2, Rene Kemp2, Paul Ekins1

1University College London, United Kingdom; 2Maastricht University, The Netherlands

The concept of the circular economy has attracted the attention of policy makers and businesses in recent years. However, changing current patterns of resource use is a complex task. This paper aims to shed some light on the understanding of why resources are being used inefficiently and the factors that contribute to explain patterns of resource use. Based on the research undertaken under FP7 project on Policy Options for Resource Efficiency (POLFREE), the authors propose to move from the concept of barrier to resource efficiency, that seems to point to some concrete single factor that impedes more optimal use of resources, to the notion of ‘web of constraints’, that highlights the complex web of interlinked factors that interact with each other dynamically and simultaneously. To illustrate how different factors interact and feedback loops are generated leading to inefficient use of resources, the authors have selected two main areas from where to draw conclusions: buildings and mobility. In both cases, they represent areas of intensive use of resources and, where the feedback loops and interaction of supply and demand contribute to create conditions that drive and/or hamper resource efficient practices. Based on the analysis of the web of constraints, the paper draws some conclusions on the role of policy in tackling inefficient use of resources in these two sectors.


Dynamic interaction of market and behavioural barriers in the transition towards a circular economy:a heterogeneous-agent approach

Saeed Moghayer, Hettie Boonman, Trond Husby

Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), The Netherlands

In this paper we analyse transition towards circular economy as an complex adaptive system focusing on the market and behavioral barriers. We investigate the conditions for successful introduction of a new production which is appropriate for a circular economy, ‘circular’ product with a focus on the contribution of underlying demand-side behavioral factors. To do that, we develop a heterogeneous agent model in which consumers are modeled to choose between two varieties of a consumer good/service in the market: a ‘circular’ product/service type and a ‘non-circular’ t type. The results and methods developed in this paper is applied to a use case of recycling of rubbers in the Netherlands.


Putting Circular Economy principles into practice

Jonathan Perry1, Markus Stutz2

1Dell, United Kingdom; 2Dell, Germany

Circular economies produce virtually no waste, as materials are re-used and recycled continuously. It’s a dramatic shift from the current linear economy in which we take, make, consume and dispose – drawing regularly on natural resources to create products that eventually end up as waste. Dell supports the principles and practice of the circular economy model and over the past two years has been transforming its approach to the supply chain and business models to become more circular in nature. Dell has created a closed loop supply of plastics where obsolete IT products are collected, disassembled and sorted. After a shredding and purification process it is compounded to produce plastic pellets. This plastic is then moulded into plastic parts such as the back panel or stand of an All-in-One computer, a display or a front bezel of a desktop. Closed loop plastics are now being used in 35 Dell products at a volume of 1,800 tons with the aim of further growth in the near future. Dell has incorporated the use of wheat straw from rural China in its packaging. Instead of being burned on the field it is purchased and broken down before being mixed with recycled content cardboard to be used as corrugate or pulped cushion material. This process views another’s waste as a resource, reduces air pollution, and uses less energy and water. Smart sourcing and recycling are only a part of the circular economy. We need to continue to incubate innovation to unlock the economic potential that can bring increased value and new jobs with it. To transition to a true circular economy, collaboration within and across industries and borders is essential, it is not something anyone can do alone.


The Zero Waste Approach to Resource Management

Richard Anthony

Zero Waste International Alliance, United States of America

A Zero Waste system is a resource management system. The process of wasting resources is against nature. In a zero waste system everything has a place before, during and after use. There is no away. In the best-designed system, the dismantling or demanufacturing would be designed into the product. The system of extraction, manufacturing, use, and disposal to incinerators or landfill will be replaced with systems that capture the material and recycle them into a closed loop system of reuse, repair, recycle/compost and redesign. Raw materials will be used as reserves.


Students Are Learning Circular Economy with Companies in the REISKA Project

Sakari Autio1, Katerina Medkova1, Kirsti Cura1

1Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Finland

The “REISKA – New business using resource efficiency” project represents an example of how an educational institution can contribute to a local and regional change towards circular economy and support the local companies. In the REISKA project, university students of engineering will analyze the material use and efficiency of hundreds of companies in several industrial areas in the Lahti region. The REISKA project supports the change of surplus materials, energy, heat and space into a profitable asset, raw material or energy for other companies of the region. In addition to surplus screening, REISKA will support multiple workshops, where the companies can develop partnerships, match the demand and supply. The REISKA project is carried out in 2015-2017 by Lahti University of Applied Sciences and Lappeenranta University of Technology with the support of the European Regional Development Fund. REISKA aims at supporting new circular economy business models that would enhance the resource efficiency and follow the philosophy of industrial symbiosis in the Päijät-Häme region located in Southern Finland. During the REISKA pre-assessment phase in 2014, 12 regional industrial locations were screened and tens of companies were contacted by the engineering students. The experiences have been encouraging and the project will continue in 2015 with a deeper analysis of a hundred companies, a GIS application and surplus workshops. This process can increase the amount of discussion and understanding about the circular economy and resource efficiency in Lahti and the Päijät-Häme region. According to a government survey, the better resource efficiency through circular economy would bring a potential growth of 1.5 -2.5 billion Euros by 2030 to the Finnish national economy (MOTIVA 2015). This can be supported locally by student’s’ efforts in contacting companies, gathering and managing the information and match making exchange of surplus materials and energy between the companies.


Using life cycle approaches for regional sustainable development in the context of a circular economy

Guido Sonnemann1, Fritz Balkau2, Stefania Massari3

1Univ. Bordeaux, France / CNRS, ISM, UMR; 2Sustainable Solutions, Paris; 3Economics Faculty, University of Salento, Lecce, Italy

Life cycle thinking is increasingly common in the private and public sectors, invoking concepts, programmes and tools that put holistic ideas into practice and relate to resource efficiency and circular economy policies. Multinational companies have been among the principal users of such approaches in their quest for sustainable product development and marketing. An aspect that has been less addressed in the literature is the potential role that life cycle sustainability can play to foster also more sustainable forms of regional development. To fill this gap this paper describes the current state of life cycle management discussions and how to strengthen sustainability in regional socio-economic development processes based on the four summer courses organized on that topic in the period of 2012-2015. It is shown that life cycle approaches can be used successfully for sustainable regional development in the context of a circular economy. A combination of first mover projects for sustainable innovation and building capabilities using a maturity model seem to be a good way forward. To this end a case study from Northern France is presented. The information collected was considered so interesting by an editor that it will become part of a resource book on that topic. The paper concludes with an outline of the resource book under development and principles for applying life approaches to sustainable regional development in order to foster circular economy for economic growth and human wellbeing.