SINTEF's CEO Alexandra Bech Gjørv opened the conference by giving examples of R&D projects that contribute to the CE concept development. Among these examples was the SISIVI project, in which the i4plastics' partners Hexagon Ragasco, Raufoss Water & Gas and Plasto participate. Especially Plasto's initiative to use reclaimed plastic material from fish farming equipment gained interest. Keeping in mind that 32% plastic is calculated to leak into the environment, Plasto's initiative is important.
Nick Jeffries from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation talked about the finite resources in our world and challenges we face with current economic models, which are linear and rely on continued growth, despite that fact that there are finite resources in the world. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was established in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to circular economy and putting CE on the agenda of decision makers across business, government and academia. Their main goals are:
- Education: Inspiring learners to re-think the future through the circular economy framework
- Business and Government: Catalysing circular innovation and creating the conditions for it to reach scale
- Insight and Analysis: Providing robust evidence about the benefits and implications of the transition
- Systemic Initiatives: Transforming key material flows to scale the circular economy globally
- Communications: Engaging a global audience around the circular economy
Restorative and regenerative
According to the MacArthur Foundation, CE is restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. CE is a continuous positive development cycle that preserves and enhances natural capital, optimises resource yields, and minimises system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows. Becoming part of CE can be difficult according to Jeffries, but early adopters may have great rewards. Enabling conditions from i.e. governments is also important to facilitate the CE work. CE can improve a companies' business i five areas:
- Supply of resources
- Resource recovery (industrial symbiosis)
- Product life extension (re-everything)
- Increased utilization of products (sharing economy)
- Products as a service (leasing)
CE is not a new concept. It was first introduced by Dr. Walther Stahel in the 70's. Dr. Stahel represents the Product Life Institute in Genova and is also a full member of the Club of Rome. The Product-Life Institute focuses on practical strategies and approaches to produce higher real wealth and economic growth with considerably lower resource consumption. They work to create more manual and skilled jobs with greatly reduced resource consumption, and to promote the business concepts of the Functional Service Economy.
Dr. Stahel also emphasised the importance of enabling conditions from i.e. governments to make CE work. These include protection for users, new financing mechanisms for service models, sustainable taxations, and favourable taxation for circular activities, public procurement and new approaches to educations.
The more than 90 participates experienced a varied and interesting program over the two days with interesting speeches from a variety of branches and industries. Sessions included in the program were learning from the biological sphere, and successful technological cycles, industrial symbiosis and waste, in addition to funding conditions and the role of the government.