• 9 June 2019

    Cleantech

    In the common imagination, technology and environment can be seen as in contrast. On the one hand, the manufacturing industry with its energy-intensive production processes, which consume enormous amounts of resources, introduces toxic substances in exchange for air. On the other hand, the environment is seen as an element to be preserved and defended. The term technology itself, however, indicates the most efficient and economical use of available goods and tools. This is why it is not an oxymoron to talk about Cleantech, clean technologies, although it can be complex to define its fields of action in an exact manner. Cleantech: clean technology without borders The concept of Cleantech is difficult to define. If it is true that in a theoretical level it is a rather simple concept when you go into it, the possibilities become practically endless. In Cleantech, we can include all the innovations, regarding processes and products, that limit or completely eliminate the negative environmental impact of human action. We can talk about Cleantech when we are faced with technologies that deal with: • Collection and recycle of waste • Production of electricity from renewable sources • Rationalization of transport • Optimization of energy consumption • Reduction of packaging volumes • Limitation of resources used in the production process • Cutting emissions of pollutants into the atmosphere. In a Circular Economy perspective, Cleantech can, therefore, become any technology that limits energy; optimize their production and consumption processes; prevents waste eventually produced. In our analysis, we will focus on technologies that provide innovative energy production and storage. Artificial intelligence Forbes has dedicated to the world of new technologies for the creation of clean energy an article on the possible trends for 2019. Among the 6 trends that could emerge this year, the newspaper cites Artificial Intelligence, now pervasive...
  • 7 June 2019

    Biomaterials

    Plastic is probably humanity’s biggest failure. Even today hundreds of millions of tons are produced, despite the risks it entails, for humans and ecosystems. The solution is biomaterials, substances obtained from organic elements (from fruit to plants, to mushrooms), biodegradable and potentially zero-impact. Let’s find out why today it is increasingly necessary to identify these types of solution and why some companies have already focused their core business on biomaterials. The huge problem of plastics In spite of good intentions and proclamations, the creation of plastic does not seem to stop globally. Historically, the production of this material has established itself in the first decades of the twentieth century and has not stopped growing until at least 2010. Estimates tell us that plastic production has grown from 1.5 million tons, globally, from the 1930s to the 280 million tons in 2010, with a 38% growth in the last 10 years of the reference period. Statista also reports that in 2017 the figure has risen further to 348 million tons. According to the portal, the greatest growth in recent years has occurred in non-European countries: in 2002 global production was in fact 200 million tons (almost half compared to today), but Europe has contributed to this growth “only” for 8 million tons. The quantity of materials deriving from the oil that we put into the environment, therefore, becomes abnormal. According to UNEP, the UN environmental program, 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the oceans every year, an enormous amount of material that will remain there for decades, if not centuries. A plastic bag takes 20 years to degrade, while bottles and cutlery can take up to a thousand years. In reality, the problem is even more serious than it seems: in nature, nothing is created and nothing is...
  • 4 February 2019

    Circular Cities

    3 models for a sustainable city: the Circular Economy applied to the urban context A story of two cities. The first is the city as we have known it so far. The air made unbearable by pollution. It is very difficult to dispose of waste properly. Resources are widely wasted or underused. The other is a sustainable and circular city. Here the waste does not exist, the resources are used to the best according to the rules of the sharing economy and the energy required is completely produced from renewable sources. In the middle, there are the real cities, which are more or less similar to one or the other model. Cities are the first context in which it is essential to apply the terms of the Circular Economy. Because they represent an area in which it is perhaps easier to agree on its founding principles. Also because, above all, they are the place par excellence where humans live and will live. Why the cities? According to a World Bank report, 54% of the global population lives in urban areas and in cities, 85% of world GDP is produced (data: 2017). 75% of the natural resources are consumed here, 50% of the waste produced and greenhouse gas emissions equal to 60-80% of the total, according to different estimates. It is therefore clear that we need to start from the cities if we want to influence the way in which human beings live together and exploit resources. Also because the trend is destined to increase, by 2050 75% of the population will be living in cities. This means that even more funds will be invested in cities: infrastructures will be at the center of the growth strategies for the cities. Increasingly, natural resources, capitals, talents, and data will be concentrated in urban contexts....
  • 4 February 2019

    Why Re-think?

    “With Re-think we take the first step towards the Circular Economy” Accelerating the transition from the linear model, in which we live, to a new circular productive paradigm, where nothing is wasted and human activities have no negative output on the environment. This is the target of Tondo, an association unofficially launched in April 2018, which was set up in November of the same year, with the idea of ​​acting concretely for the development of the Circular Economy. The association arised from the will of Francesco Castellano, president and founder of Tondo: «We want to transform the Circular Economy into a practical reality». The first step is Re-Think, a forum on the Circular Economy, to be held in Milan on the 14th of February, at the Catholic University (for more information, click here: http://re-think.today/). The event will involve industry experts, startups and corporations that are moving towards the Circular Economy. Why participate? Castellano explains this: «The forum is an opportunity to acquire a medium and long term vision on some topics related to the Circular Economy. Participating therefore means finding ideas that will soon become market trends and opportunities to develop new businesses». In this interview, Francesco tells us about the birth and the objectives of Tondo. How is Tondo born? The idea for the association comes from my real experience. I was swimming in the sea, the place was beautiful from a naturalistic point of view, but it was completely ruined by the presence of plastic: there was plastic everywhere. On the sand, in the sea. I began to question myself about the world in which we live and I have identified two enormous problems, evident to all, which it is impossible to not see now. The first is plastic: it is stupid to continue throwing tons of plastics...
  • 4 February 2019

    Circular Economy

    What is the circular economy and why it is important for everyone: citizens, businesses, institutions While the circular economic motivations are clear, very often we don’t know how to implement it, as it is shown in the last report of the Global Fashion Agenda. The industry of fashion is the one which often finds difficult to marry an ecological approach. This is why it is even more important that the philosophy of the Circular Economy is linked to fashion: 20% of water waste resources comes from the fashion industry, at global level, and 10% of the emissions of anhydride carbon are due to textiles. The reason why Circular Economy is spreading, is clear: the plastic residues that invade seas and oceans (and therefore all marine fauna), global warming, climate change are phenomena largely investigated by the scientific community and (almost) all the actors in the field realize that it is time to act in this direction. The ‘how’ is missing, however, perhaps because there is no unambiguous definition of what the ‘current’ circular economy actually is: what are the objectives? What are the essential processes? What are the founding principles? In fact, similar questions are not at all trivial. What is the Circular Economy Where does Circular Economy come from? It is the economist Kenneth E. Boulding, who developed the first circular model for materials, in which the production has no residue, but everything is reintegrated and reused in the production circuit. It is 1966 when Boulding writes his article “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth“. Since then the concept has evolved and formalized in recent decades, especially for the emergence of climate change, defining the concept of a Circular Economy in the academic sphere. But where we are, it is still far from identifying a single and precise...

Circular Cities

3 models for a sustainable city: the Circular Economy applied to the urban context

A story of two cities. The first is the city as we have known it so far. The air made unbearable by pollution. It is very difficult to dispose of waste properly. Resources are widely wasted or underused. The other is a sustainable and circular city. Here the waste does not exist, the resources are used to the best according to the rules of the sharing economy and the energy required is completely produced from renewable sources.

In the middle, there are the real cities, which are more or less similar to one or the other model. Cities are the first context in which it is essential to apply the terms of the Circular Economy. Because they represent an area in which it is perhaps easier to agree on its founding principles. Also because, above all, they are the place par excellence where humans live and will live.

Why the cities?

According to a World Bank report, 54% of the global population lives in urban areas and in cities, 85% of world GDP is produced (data: 2017). 75% of the natural resources are consumed here, 50% of the waste produced and greenhouse gas emissions equal to 60-80% of the total, according to different estimates.

It is therefore clear that we need to start from the cities if we want to influence the way in which human beings live together and exploit resources. Also because the trend is destined to increase, by 2050 75% of the population will be living in cities.

This means that even more funds will be invested in cities: infrastructures will be at the center of the growth strategies for the cities. Increasingly, natural resources, capitals, talents, and data will be concentrated in urban contexts. Moreover, given their relative geographic limitations, cities can better be governed and directed towards the principles of the Circular Economy.

The risk is that the global middle class, growing everywhere except perhaps in the “developed” economies and concentrated in the cities, ends up requiring an even greater percentage of resources to feed its “well-being”. This would inevitably lead to higher waste generation (which also means a decrease in material productivity) and a huge negative impact on the environment.

Some real examples will help us to understand what is at stake.

Why is the sustainable city the only way?

The city is the place for excellence, where humanity resides and will reside. This can be a source of opportunity, but also of problems.

We remember some of them.

The under-utilization of materials. Among the founding principles of the Circular Economy is the use of materials in a continuous cycle, without turning them into waste. Expanding the concept, we can say that the materials are always used to the maximum of their potential and without waste. This does not always happen, even more in the cities. Considering the cars, according to some reports, in Europe cars are parked on average 92% of the time. A huge waste of resources. In the same way the offices: the structures are used for just 35-50% of the time.

Waste of food (and not only).

31% of food in the world is wasted at the different levels of the chain: from production to distribution to consumption. This represents not only a social problem, but also an enormous waste of resources: the production of fruit, vegetables and meat is one of the activities with a relevant environmental impact.

The picture becomes even less positive when we consider that such waste must be disposed of with further costs in terms of economic resources. In developing countries 50% of the city’s budget goes to waste collection and management.

Pollution.

As mentioned, urban areas contribute to most of the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Another fact that should makes us reflect: about 80% of urban areas have a level of air pollution that exceeds the limits established by the WHO.

The impact of climate change and global warming should be particularly felt by cities, given that 90% of urban areas are located along the coasts.

A vision for the sustainable and circular city

The urban contexts must, therefore, assume circularity as a basic model. To achieve this, they must exploit materials, technologies and flows that optimize and connect infrastructures and those who live in them, with their human and social capital.

To the most detrimental aspects of living in urban contexts, the circular city can, on the contrary, put in place a series of principles and actions to completely overturn the paradigm.

Three principles

We start from three principles on which the circularity is based according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

To design. Circular production and consumption processes involve the elimination of all the negative externalities linked to the creation of value: toxic substances released into the environment, greenhouse gases, water and soil pollution, traffic congestion and so on. To achieve this, a systemic project is needed in which all the actors are involved at the highest level in a joint effort.

Eliminate the concept of waste. The idea of ​​an ideal sustainable city is not so much (or at least not only) that of recycling the materials that are discarded and end up in the trash can. On the contrary, the idea is to minimize the use of non-recycled materials. This is the idea behind the concept of circularity: the materials are not discarded but reused continuously, in a continuous cycle. At the same time, synthetic materials must be gradually replaced by organic compounds of a biological nature.

Regenerate. Natural capital is a value to be preserved and included in the circular process of the economy. An example is the regeneration of the soil, which can be obtained by avoiding polluting wastewater to go directly in the soil, but instead using compost, deriving from the organic materials mentioned above.

What can not be missing in a sustainable and circular city

On these general principles, then practices are founded, which can help to realize the dream of a circular city.

Buildings. Offices and houses are built in a modular and flexible way so that they are not used by a single owner but shared as much as possible. The construction materials must be reused and recyclable, reducing the use of virgin materials. Buildings must not consume as much energy and food as they produce, with systems for the production of energy from renewable sources and installations such as urban vertical farms.

Energy. Overall, the city must use energy that is renewable, distributed and efficient, cutting production costs and protecting the environment.

Transportation. As for buildings, even in transport it is necessary to overcome the concept of private property. The transport system must be accessible to all (and therefore economically advantageous) and holistic: to the “traditional” solutions such as trains and buses, electric on-demand cars, bike sharing and other solutions for the so-called “last-mile” must be added. Vehicles will also have to be rethought to last longer and to consume materials and fuel to a minimum.

Urban bioeconom. Food waste is another scourge, social and environmental, of urban areas. Here too it is possible to use a circular approach. The polluted waters do not end up in sewers (and therefore in watercourses), but are purified and sent to the land or in hydroponic crops. The organic fraction of waste – to be reduced to the minimum possible – becomes instead the fertilizer of those crops or material to feed fish farms, for example. What remains can lead to the production of clean energy (through biofuels).

Production systems in a loop. The production of goods and services can become widespread. The waste of a given activity can become, for example, the raw material of another. The tools can be shared and no longer be an exclusive property. Then, the faulty objects can still create value and work if they are repaired or reused.

Digital revolution. The Circular City can only be a Smart City. Mobility, for example, to be really efficient, requires the rapid processing of a large amount of data. The same can be said of the energy distribution systems, or of the food production. Digital technologies can make the production cycle much more transparent, for example by tracing the ‘journey’ of materials from birth to reuse.

3 cities that are doing it

Examples of Circular Cities are already underway, considering pilots on Smart Cities, Sustainable Mobility, and Urban Farming. It is still missing an example of a completely circular urban context, at least if we consider big cities where this kind of target is quite demanding.

However, there are examples of the progress made in this direction. Let’s find out.

San Francisco

In 2009, the city on the bay took a fundamental decision: it was the first in the United States to make the separation of organic waste from the rest waste for all citizens and businesses. The 2020 target is to reach “Zero Waste” and today the recycling percentage exceeds 80%, among the highest in the world.

The Californian city is also at the forefront of the so-called upcycling. What is it? It is a recycling process of a specific material for the production of a good of greater value than the original one. One example is ReGrained, a company that takes waste from beer brewing processes and creates energy bars.

The next step for San Francisco has to be to reduce the quantity of virgin materials used at the beginning of the production / consumption cycle: the greenest product is the one that is not produced.

Singapore

The Singapore challenge is particularly interesting because the city is in the third most densely populated country in the world. The efforts of local administrations have focused mainly on the protection of biodiversity.

To build new buildings in the city, companies must, for example, restore all the vegetation they have eliminated elsewhere. Many skyscrapers, then, which give a home to 80% of the inhabitants, are covered with gardens on the roofs. For this reason, Singapore is covered for 40% of vegetation.

The city has created an app that helps citizens to identify specimens of the 392 species of birds that take refuge on the island. Singapore has also launched, thanks to the collaboration with the managers of the local National Parks, the CBI, the City Biodiversity Index: an index that “measures” the biodiversity of the city through a series of parameters. The tool is also useful for other urban areas to evaluate its efforts in this direction.

Seoul

What is perhaps difficult for many to understand is the fact that Circular Cities are not just a requirement for the environment, but a way to create better conditions for everyone.

In Seoul with the “Sharing City” initiative, the rulers are trying to prove this. The goal is to share everything that is not used. Precisely everything: some abandoned buildings have been refurbished with the contribution of many; those who had a suit lent it to those who could not afford it to present themselves for a job interview; the same was done for children who go to school.

Among the most interesting projects, the redevelopment of Cheonggyecheon. A heavily polluted area has been transformed into a public space for recreational activities. The project has brought not only an undeniable environmental and social value but also an economic boost, with the creation of many jobs.

Social Share Buttons and Icons powered by Ultimatelysocial