Circular Economy

  • During the Re-think Circular Economy Forum held in Taranto last here, we had the honour to have as guest Walter Stahel, father of the Circular Economy and founder of The Life-Product Institute in Geneva, who began his speech giving a panoramic view of the opportunities of a low-waste, low-carbon circular industrial economy.  Circular Industrial Economy (CIE) is about stocks, not flows, he started, and it’s about managing, maintaining the value and the utility of natural capital, human capital, cultural capital, manufactured capital.  The origins of circularity are several: in nature, in infrastructure designed for long-term use, in good husbandry in societies of poverty and scarcity. The take-away from early sustainability and Circular Economy is that it comes from people caring for their belongings – what they have – and as there is no waste in nature, it simply means that all waste is man-made.  Walter explained that, looking at the economy as a whole, it is like a bath-tub economy, where you have inflows and outflows, but the thing we are most interested in is quality and quantity of stock of water in the tub. This is largely unknown today. So, a bath-tub view of a mature circular economy is one loop, with a main era of “R”, reuse, refill, repair, remanufacture and an era of “D”, de-linking materials to recover molecules as-pure-as-new from used resources. The era of “R” is about essential services, production is about productive labour and that’s why economists usually ignore the era of “R” because it’s not productive labour.  The era of “R” of the Circular Industrial Economy is about local SMEs and innovation to extend the service-life of objects. And who takes the decisions in the era of “R”? It’s the owner-user in control of his/her belongings.   Then, according to Walter, a first watershed happened...
  • 2 June 2022

    Only One Earth

    By Jacqline Kwakye, Social Media Marketing Intern in Tondo “In the middle of a pandemic, COVID-19, if there’s ever been a moment in human history where we’ve been thrown and thrust to the very front and shown that we as humans are very vulnerable, it’s now.” – Musonda Mumba, Chief of the Terrestrial Ecosystems Unit, UN Environment. Coming out of a global pandemic highlights the importance of protecting the environment as the theme of this year’s World Environment Day conveys “We have Only one Earth“. The World Environment Day is an international day dedicated to the environment and led by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). It has been held annually on every 5th of June since the 1973 and this year will be hosted by Sweden. The initiative calls for a collective, transformative action on a global scale to celebrate, protect and restore the planet. Current global crisis and challenges requires a retracing of human actions and the necessity to get proactive with gearing not just economic, but also environmental and social sectors towards sustainability. Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generation to meet their own needs. Evidently speaking, humanity is living unsustainably, this is because we extract natural resources more frequently than it takes the Earth to replenish. In every given year, there is a day which marks the date when humanity’s demand for ecological resources exceeds what the earth can generate within that year. This day is called: Earth Overshoot Day. The Global Footprint Network evaluates it based on 3 million statistical data from 200 countries. It is calculated by dividing the planet’s biocapacity (in global hectares) by humanity’s ecological footprint (in global hectares) and then multiplying by the number of days in a year. Statistics from the Global...
  • The speech by Riccardo Gulli, Professor of the Department of Architecture at the University of Bologna, during the Hacking the City event held in April 2021, focused on circularity in the construction sector and the relationships that come into play considering the housing and engineering aspect, the material reuse, the usage of raw materials and secondary raw materials. The speech focus was on: Rebuild to Regenerate. Rebuild to regenerate is a model by which they intend to develop various activities that relate to the broader theme of circular economy and sustainability regarding its adaptation to existing cities. In particular, Gulli and his team are studying this model applied to the city of Bologna and specifically it’s suburbs. In Italy, Gulli said, 40% of the housing stock we have today was developed in 2000 years, meanwhile, only in the last 50-70 years almost 60 percent of what is found in Italian urban scenarios was built. This means, that in much less time more has been accomplished than what has been done in almost 2000 years. In Italy, there are about 30 million houses and 12 million buildings of which more than 70% are residential. This is a very significant impact on the overall buildings in Italy. Most of this heritage was built between ‘1945 and ‘1990s, the period of expansion in construction, especially the post-war reconstruction, which was often without rules, as many laws were enacted and enforced only later with a comprehensive regulatory framework that covered not only urban planning aspects, but construction aspects as well. In the second half of the 1990s, the apparatus which is still present today had its own comprehensive codification, which includes the performance point of view, thus with regard to safety and standards for life. All this means that most of the built capital...
  • 21 April 2022

    The bioeconomy of waste

    Isabella Pisano, Researcher at University of Bari, during her speech at the Re-think Circular Economy Forum in Taranto last September, presented some case studies and scenarios of what is defined as the “circular bioeconomy“, the good “biotech” practices that she follows in the laboratories and then, through a SWOT analysis, she saw the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities but also threats of that certain practice.    She began by defining the circular bioeconomy as an emerging knowledge-based business model for the development of products and processes based on renewable biological resources. The challenge of the bio-economy is to increasingly replace fossil fuels, and therefore it addresses a bio-based market for the production of new bio-products, ranging from food, energy, plastics, textiles to the chemical industry. For several years, researcher Pisano has been carrying out the study and implementation of various organic waste close to our territory with a view to its valorisation.     Are we really talking about waste and refuse, or are we still talking about resources?  Starting with an overview of the organic waste agenda that she has been working on, there are for example, waste from the dairy chain such as whey, which is highly developed in our area and whose production in Europe is around 90 million tonnes per year, and of which 40% is considered special waste under current legislation; lignocellulosic biomass, such as pruning waste, which is very often burned by small farmers, albeit in small quantities, or perennial herbaceous species that are found in marginal areas but could be fully exploited, while they are still considered waste, and the olive oil sector, which is also very present in the Mediterranean territories and for which, in accordance with the law, olive oil vegetation water can be disposed of by spreading it on the land. However, there are still...
  • Roberto Zoboli, Rector’s Delegate for Scientific Research and Sustainability at Università Cattolica, Milano, for his speech at the Re-think Circular Economy Forum held in 2020 talked about the general architecture of the European Green Deal identifying different areas of actions: the decarbonization and zero pollution area, the bio economy area – from Farm to Fork to preserve European natural capital and biodiversity, and the transition to a Circular Economy area.  These areas, he started, can be considered separately but also in a NEXUS approach, which is used by international organizations and think-thanks to study the interactions between the different areas of reality and policies. All these interactions can be in synergy but also in conflict over the different processes and policies. For instance, the circular economy can save bio resources by using biowaste as input such as in green chemistry. In the case of decarbonisation, the biomass-based RES (energy/biofuels) can create possible pressures over virgin bioresources especially after the strong support on renewable energy sources in Europe. Finally, the circular economy can provide waste-based feedstocks for RES, reducing the demand for virgin bioresources. The acknowledgement of these interactions can be beneficial for policy integrations and for the achievement of the European Green Deal (EGD) objectives avoiding potential conflicts.  At the European level, in the NEXUS the focus is on biomaterials. Knowing that there is a great amount of residues in production (442 mt/year), there is a large potential that is partly unexploited but, in some cases, there is a high demand pressure on some sectors like wood residues. Looking at the biomaterials flows in the European Union it is possible to notice that these resources are not used properly, a large part of materials are wasted or used in low-value processes:  The energy use is about 72% of total uses and...
  • 31 March 2022

    CE status in Italy

    To present the lights, the shadows and the development prospects of the Circular Economy (CE) in Italy during his speech at Hacking the City last year, Davide Chiaroni, Professor of Strategy and Marketing at the Politecnico di Milano, co-founder and deputy director of the Energy & Strategy Observatory, used the results of their observatory on the Circular Economy. The observatory started in 2020 and with it they investigated how widespread the CE really is in our country. One of the first myths they would like to dispel, he continued, is the equation between CE and the recycling economy that people have become accustomed to, but that actually detracts from the true scope of the CE itself. In order to understand how much circularity is really being implemented and therefore, how much products and services are being rethought and redesigned, they decided to investigate three Italian marco-sectors: construction, automotive and industrial plants engineering.   Zooming on the construction sector, for instance, they saw that about 75% of the sample they interviewed had already adopted at least one circular practice and only 6% of the total had not adopted any practices yet and had no intention of adopting them in the future, while there was a 6% who had not yet adopted one but with the intention to in the coming years. Consequently, apart from this percentage of absolute sceptics, the Italian industrial and construction system is very well prepared. However, there is still a long way to go. When, during their analysis, they asked companies to identify their perception of their own distribution with respect to CE, so at what point in the development of circularity they think they have arrived on a scale from 1 to 5, many companies acknowledged that they are halfway along the circular transition. About 58% of...
  • The Re-think Circular Economy Forum organised in Taranto on the 28th and the 29th of September saw the participation of numerous speakers, including Vito Albino, professor of engineering-economic management at the Politecnico di Bari, who discussed the energy transition between technology and ideology.     The choice of addressing the issue of energy transition by looking not only at technological aspects but also at ideological ones, the professor began, is based on the observation that industrial transitions are complex phenomena and require in-depth understanding.     The idea is that energy transition cannot be reduced exclusively to a question of technological change. It also requires ideological change. Hence, technology is a component of the transition, but the role of ideologies must also be considered.     The European Green Deal offers an interesting example in this direction. It is an important political action that is strongly supported by the development and adoption of new technologies. However, it is useful to reflect on what happened a few years ago when, for the G20 meeting in Pittsburgh in 2009, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) tried to convince the major G20 countries that the best way to respond to the economic crisis was to respond to the already looming environmental crisis. Very interesting studies were carried out and brought to the attention of the G20, including a proposal for a ‘Global Green New Deal‘. This initiative had negligible effects because the proposed change offered potential technological options that governments should have made their own. These choices respond to logics that go beyond the strictly technological ones.    At the moment, the European Union, proposing the European Green Deal programme, will reasonably have to consider aspects not only related to technological change, but also to the emergence of new ideologies that can enable the necessary industrial transitions. Industrial...
  • By Arianna Sica, Tondo Associate Industrial Symbiosis: an approach to the Circular Economy Why do we talk about industrial symbiosis? Currently it’s an application model that is often mentioned and proposed when talking about Circular Economy and it has as essential elements the sharing of waste, energy and skills between companies. It is a new field of research that aims to improve efficiency in the use of resources by moving from the current linear model of production to a circular model. By promoting the sharing of resources between companies in traditionally separate sectors, it wishes to prevent the by-products of a company, potentially usable for production purposes by other companies from becoming waste. Industrial symbiosis therefore offers a model for closing resource cycles: it proposes the exchange of resources between companies in different sectors promoting the development of a Circular Economy. Industrial symbiosis: what does it mean It’s an interdisciplinary field that investigates the relationships existing between industrial systems and their natural environment. In biology, the expression “symbiosis” defines any type of close and long-term biological interaction between two different biological organisms in which a beneficial mutualism may be present. Similarly, the term industrial symbiosis identifies the exchange of resources between two or more industries in different sectors. However, resources are not exclusively material as for by- products or waste, but also include thermal energy, services, know-how and tacit knowledge. Therefore, we can speak of symbiosis between companies when at the same time: – Utilities and facilities are shared in the use and management of resources such as steam, energy, water and wastewater; – There is the joint supply of services related to  safety, hygiene, transport and waste management; – A waste or a by-product becomes a raw material for another company. The object of the relationships is therefore eco-innovation,...
  • By Sara Salerno, Circular Economy Analyst at Tondo Lab It is time for the long-awaited Christmas and New Year’s holidays to take a break, spend time with loved ones and get some rest. The festive season will be even more peaceful if we keep a careful eye on the dangerous environmental impact that all periods of high consumption can generate. What is now certain is that this impact can be greatly reduced by taking simple daily measures. 10 tips for greener festivities: BUY only the amount of food you need and what’s in season, reusing the numerous leftovers for new and delicious meals. Or, freeze leftovers for another occasion or donate your surplus, if possible, to local associations and social cooperatives that locally deal with distribution. In fact, according to a study carried out at Ener2Crowd, in Italy at this time of the year people throw away around 500 thousand tonnes of food and we know that every tonne of waste can generate around 4.2 tonnes of CO2. Furthermore, it has been calculated that on average, during the Christmas period, a person can produce around 26kg of CO2 due to the food choices they make. However, there are eco-friendly alternatives: a vegetarian meal can save about 3kg of CO2 per person, a meal with at least 50% of organic food can save about 2kg of CO2 per person and finally, a low-waste meal can save up to 7kg of CO2 per person. AVOID using single use plates, cutlery and glasses which would generate a voluminous quantity of plastic or other material which is not always correctly disposed of. COLLECT the used cooking oil and dispose of it in the municipal collection centres designated for this activity, as they can be highly polluting for the environment. GIVE only useful or desired...
  • 9 December 2021

    Inclusion is sustainable!

    By Giovanna Matrone, Tondo associates Over the last years, Circular Economy has placed itself at the center of the international debate as a real transformative solution to overcome the prevailing linear model, with a potential boost in solving both economic, environmental and social challenges. However, issues related to social sustainability, well-being and equity, almost always remain peripheral in the contemporary debate, questioning the ability of the Circular Economy – as understood by many of the involved actors – to undertake a path towards progress that is truly sustainable.   There are many reasons why this happens. On the one hand, the consumption patterns we are used to put only the economic aspects at the center of well-being, forgetting the resulting inequalities; on the other hand, the social dimension is particularly complex to implement and make operational; finally, there are practical aspects that are not easy to solve, first of all the issue of impact measurement. In fact, it is much easier to agree on easily measurable environmental and economic metrics, such as reducing emissions or increasing turnover, instead of developing complex methodologies for social impact assessment.  However, we cannot and must not forget that a truly sustainable future implies a significant participation of all the members of a community with the aim of enhancing its diversity and offering well-being and equity to individuals and the community. This idea of conceiving the involvement of a growing plurality of people can be realized through inclusion, that is the ability to build an environment where – in the multiplicity of points of view, experiences, beliefs – everyone is and feels welcome, respected, supported in his/her uniqueness as well as empowered for full participation in common activities. Inclusion is the mean through which diversity expresses all its best potential.  This tool, whose practical declination takes on various nuances, is very...
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