Circular Economy – Resource Revolution Awards Panel Debate: The relevance of the circular economy, and its closed loop and Cradle-to-Cradle affiliates, is becoming increasingly pervasive across industries and governments. Concerns over the volatility, cost and environmental impact surrounding resource security have never been higher and many are showing an interest in the move from a linear to a circular economy.
“Material previously known as waste.”
This was an apt closing comment from Dustin Benton at this year’s Resource Revolution Awards panel debate, reflecting perfectly the potential that waste management businesses now hold in helping close the loop.
As an appetizer to the award ceremony, held at London’s Hotel Russell, Edie brought together an insightful group of thought leaders to discuss what role the circular economy concept has, with a focus on the waste management industry.
With Edie’s own White Paper as a backdrop, the advantages of a circular economy were evident. Not only does the restorative cycle give waste a larger role in aiding a shift away from linear ‘take, make, and waste’ flows but it also acts as a driver for innovation in system, product and business-model design.
To download the white paper click here
Closing the loop is “forward thinking, increases resilience and improves environmental performance.” Dr. Richard Swannell, director of design and waste prevention at WRAP, spoke of the need to encourage the reuse of durables and to aim at getting end-of-life products back into the highest-value output. Waste management plays a role in making this happen.
Naturally challenges also had their place. Sophie Thomas, RSA’s co-director of design, spoke of the inertia that is preventing organisations from moving towards closing the loop. Pleased that for the first time a designer had been asked to join the panel, Sophie explained that, to conquer this, networks needed to align and shift together.
However, a “fear factor” and over-caution is still present amongst many organisations when dealing with product design and testing, with many feeling constrained by barriers such as IP laws. There is a strong need to “myth-bust” this perception and focus on design as encompassing both systems and business cases. It is no longer just about design.
It is also the consensus that confidence in the circular economy needs to be increased, with many viewing it as merely theoretical and yet to gain practical integrity. Business needs to help build this trust. Public funding is thin on the ground and investors remain sceptical, still largely adverse to anything long-term. Business-lead solutions need to push forward.
What is needed to encourage large companies to make the shift? Are new policies the answer? Will it be an incremental or disruptive change? Although these proved difficult for many to ascertain one fact was very clear. NGOs, including those present at the Resource Revolution Awards, have the ability to bring people together and close the loop, far more so than governments or businesses can. In that respect, the award ceremony provided one more step towards a circular economy, and an insightful one at that.
Hotel Russell, London, UK
Friday May 10th, 2013