Circular Economy

  • Italiano La Professoressa Simona Tondelli dell’Università di Bologna è stata nostra ospite in occasione di Hacking the City lo scorso aprile. Il suo intervento, sintetizzato in questo articolo, si è concentrato sull’applicazione dell’economia circolare nell’ecosistema urbano.  Il focus della Prof.ssa Tondelli è sulla circolarità urbana, che è per noi oggi un tema centrale poiché le città sono solitamente luoghi in cui la maggior parte degli impatti che noi generiamo si concentrano, ma li subisce anche perché la gran parte della popolazione mondiale vive qui e continuerà ad aumentare. Inoltre, nelle città abbiamo circa l’81% dei consumi; la metà delle città con oltre 100.000 abitanti tendono a soffrire di scarsità idrica; possono esserci problemi di food security; l’artificializzazione del suolo che causa la perdita di terreni agricoli; si consumano il 60-80% di risorse naturali; si producono oltre il 50% dei rifiuti e oltre i 2/3 delle emissioni di gas serra oltre a consumare circa il 60% dell’energia.  Bisogna però tener presente che le città sono tutte molto diverse tra loro, sia al loro interno che tra di loro, avendo queste diversi stadi di sviluppo che possono vedere città caratterizzate da spopolamento o invecchiamento della popolazione provocando quindi l’abbandono di spazi ancora utilizzabili, ad esempio Detroit, e dall’altra parte, ci sono invece città in cui la popolazione tende a concentrarsi perché sono poli economici importanti, spostando invece attività meno redditizie nelle periferie, ad esempio Vancouver.  Un possibile approccio alla circolarità urbana è quello sviluppato dalla Circular Cities Hub che spiega quali sono le caratteristiche che una città dovrebbe avere per diventare effettivamente circolare:  La “città locale”, nel senso che la chiusura del ciclo a cui si ambisce deve concretizzarsi il più possibile nella produzione e nel consumo all’interno dei confini di questo centro.   La “città in loop”, un luogo dove le risorse vengono riciclate, riutilizzate, recuperate e poi usate per...
  • English What do a pencil and fashion have in common? Susanna Martucci, Founder Alisea – Perpetua and Alice Fortuna, Sustainability Communications Manager at WRAD Focus Design, explained to us – during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan – what it is and how it is possible. Susanna Martucci is an entrepreneur whose job is to extend the life of materials. She has always worked in sales and communication and after 12 years of experience in a large Italian company, in 1994 she founded her own: Alisea. She was in the business of creating promotional “gadgets” made in Italy. However, a little over a year, products made in China arrived on the market and competing became impossible because they had unbeatable prices and looked exactly as the products she was making. She was risking of going out of business and leaving 20 people unemployed.  One day of that same period she found herself in a bar where an acquaintance gave her a small notebook as a gift. When she opened it she read “no trees has been cut down for the production of this notebook”. This suddenly took her back to 1982 when she was on a train and by her side two university professors were having a conversation: “we are all sitting on a huge landfill, it’s a ticking bomb, a huge problem for future generations but also a great business opportunity for those who will be able to seize it”. However, in 1982, in Italy, nobody had a clue what household waste recycling actually meant.   Then, she asked herself: “Why don’t we give a new life to waste?“. Therefore, she started speaking to her clients’ marketing departments and asked to see the waste their companies were producing. Thanks to the production managers she could walk through their production processes and she could learn about the technical data sheets of the materials. This is the moment when at Alisea they realized how, through creativity, all waste could become the protagonist of a fascinating story to tell. In fact, it was 1996 and from that intuition Alisea found a unique collocation on the market, becoming the only operator in Italy that...
  • 26 August 2021

    Ambiente ed Economia

    by Fabrizio Cinque, Tondo Associate L’ambiente costituisce una fonte di risorse essenziale per il funzionamento del sistema economico, questo perché, come ogni attività umana, l’attività economica si svolge all’interno dell’ambiente naturale. L’ambiente fornisce risorse economiche: le materie prime. Esse sono un bene economico in forma grezza, che l’uomo, attraverso cicli produttivi, può trasformare in beni di consumo pronti a soddisfare i bisogni umani. Ciò però impoverisce l’ambiente, perché nonostante la natura sia una riserva di beni materiali molto grande, non è illimitata, di conseguenza, le materie prime sono risorse scarse. Quando si parla di scarsità di una risorsa naturale questa può essere assoluta (stock) e in tal caso si parla di risorse esauribili (non rinnovabili) oppure relativa, è il caso di risorse rigenerabili (rinnovabili). Ambiente ed Economia sono quindi due sistemi inseparabili e in continua relazione.  Ci sono pertanto due distinti metabolismi sul nostro pianeta: il metabolismo biologico, o della Biosfera, cioè i cicli della natura e il metabolismo tecnico, detto anche Tecnosfera, cioè i cicli dell’industria. Biosfera e Tecnosfera: definizioni e funzionamento La Terra viene divisa da alcuni studiosi in varie «sfere»: Litosfera, Idrosfera, Atmosfera e, da pochi anni, è stata introdotta anche la Tecnosfera.  Il sistema che comprende Litosfera (l’insieme delle terre emerse), Idrosfera (insieme delle acque) e Atmosfera è chiamato Biosfera. Quest’ultima comprende tutti gli ecosistemi della Terra e si può quindi considerare formata dall’insieme degli ambienti fisici del pianeta che possono ospitare organismi viventi. Caratteristica fondamentale della Biosfera è la diversità biologica (o biodiversità), cioè, la varietà di organismi viventi nelle loro diverse forme, e nei rispettivi ecosistemi.  La parola Tecnosfera è stata coniata dal professore di geologia e ingegneria civile della Duke University Peter Haff, che afferma: «La tecnosfera è fatta dalle strutture che l’uomo ha costruito nel tempo: centrali elettriche, linee di trasmissione, strade, edifici, mezzi di trasporto, templi, aziende agricole,...
  • 6 August 2021

    Measuring Circularity

    English Version Jacco Verstraeten-Jochemsen, Lead Business Strategy at Circle Economy joined us in October at our Re-think Circular Economy Forum to talk about why and how we should measure our progress towards a Circular Economy. Circle Economy is an organization that strives to accelerate the practical and scalable implementation of the Circular Economy, which is why they are working to effectively measure circularity levels of different companies in Europe. The desire to create a tool to measure the levels of circularity arose from the realization that although economic growth has been exponential in recent decades, many other parameters have grown at the same time: these include material extraction, CO2 emissions, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity. This is why, in 2018, Circle Economy started to study how the circularity of the global economy can be measured and, after that, they also introduced new methods to measure the circularity of a country and of a company. This is fundamental because if you can’t measure how circular you are, you can’t improve on that. Circle Economy also found out that people are still not aware of how urgent the situation is. When asked how circular the global economy might be, most people assumed that the level of circularity globally would be between 25 and 50%, when it is truly 9%. This means that only 9% of our materials is cycled on a yearly basis, through several different strategies: reusing, composting, recycling. This also means that more than 90% of materials on a yearly basis are lost, landfilled, or incinerated. But how does this work in practice? How can Circle Economy measure the circularity of a company? Jacco presented as an example the results they obtained when analyzing the Danish company Rockwool, which is one of the biggest producers of insulation materials for buildings in...
  • 2 August 2021

    Fili Pari: wearable marble

    English Is it possible to imagine the use of marble in the textile industry? Can marble be light? It sounds incredible, but Francesca Pievani and Alice Zantedeschi, Co-founders of Fili Pari, explained to us – during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum 2020 in Milan – how that can be done. Fili Pari is an innovative Start-Up focused on research and development of unconventional materials for the textile industry, respecting the territory and the environment. The Start-Up specializes in the development of cutting-edge technologies for the enhancement of marble powders. Fili Pari aims to contribute to protecting the land and valleys from the mountain’s dismemberment and encourage the use of by-products as a raw material. Fili Pari was born from the desire to create a new deep connection between the Italian territory and the textile industry. Fili Pari’s concept starts in fact from marble, a natural, typical element of the Italian territory. Since ancient times marble has been used in art, architecture, and represents a cultural, economic, and geological heritage, a symbol of uniqueness and timeless excellence. For instance, the Carrara marble is one of the most precious and luxurious marbles in the world.  Generally speaking, Italian marble is among the most valuable in the world and it represents a very important sector of Made in Italy. The Italian stone industry boasts the fifth position in the world ranking for processed marbles, with a share of 10%. The supply chain has more than 3,200 companies and 33,800 employees and reached in 2016 a production worth 3.9 billion euros, three-quarters of which is destined to foreign countries. However, marble was never used in the textile sector. Before Fili Pari, there was no connection or synergy between these two industries. In fashion, it was used as an aesthetic inspiration through prints that reproduce...
  • English Version Have you ever thought that spent coffee grounds could not be a waste, but a great resource?  Let’s start with some numbers. Italy imports annually around 606 thousand tonnes of coffee (this is 17% of the EU’s coffee imports), and on average an Italian consumes 6 kg of coffee annually. As we can see, Italy is a significant coffee consumer, which means that Italy produces a significant quantity of spent coffee grounds. Spent coffee grounds have a lot of qualities: in particular, they are rich in nitrogen, an element with a high potential for energy production, saturated fatty acids, and cellulose. They can be used in several industries as they can be used to produce cosmetics, compost, pellets, biofuels, etc.  While some industries do recognize the potential of spent coffee grounds, there are some innovative startups that truly went above and beyond. Coffeefrom uses this resource in a circular way, with a zero-waste approach.  Coffeefrom is an Italian company that was born in 2019, it is based in Milan and it brought an innovative, extremely versatile, and sustainable material of biological origin material on the market. This material is made using spent coffee grounds of industrial origin, in a truly sustainable and circular fashion. Coffeefrom is the second circular economy spin-off launched by a local cooperative, Il Giardinone Cooperativa Sociale. The first experience dates back to Expo 2015, when the team of Il Giardinone experimented with the recovery and transformation of coffee grounds from Lavazza bars, using them to cultivate fresh mushrooms. In 2016, FungoBox was launched: the kit allows for self-production of fresh mushrooms from urban coffee waste.  Over time, the know-how of Il Giardinone in the recovery and transformation of coffee by-products strengthened and a new entrepreneurial vision was born: this is how Coffeefrom first came...
  • English Version Cities are the first cause and at the same time victims of global warming, but can they be the first resource for fighting climate change? Stefano Boeri, President of Triennale Milano, was our guest during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum last October. He firmly believes that yes, a city could be the first resource for tackling climate change. He thinks of vegetation as an essential element of architecture and this is what makes his projects special.  He started his speech by highlighting how by 2030, 60% of the global population is projected to live in urban areas and that cities consume 75% of the world’s natural resources and account for more than 70% of global CO2 emissions. To avoid producing new CO2 and absorbing the emissions that already exist in the atmosphere, plants and trees are extremely efficient. His Urban Manifesto explains more about this. During our event, Stefano presented an innovative project Smart Forest City in Cancun, Mexico. He chose this city because, in this urban area, a Chinese company has already destroyed part of the mangroves forest in order to build a mall. The idea of Smart Forest City is the concept of Urban Forestry, to contrast deforestation. The main idea behind Smart Forest City is to create sustainable spaces and help the city to become self-sufficient. The city will host up to 130.000 people, it will have 5 or 6 epicenters around a series of University departments. It will be composed of more than 7 million trees and thousands of other plants. The most interesting part of the project is the buffer zone: the perimeter of this new city is composed of solar panels and a place for agricultural fields, where it will be possible to cultivate and produce part of the food for the...
  • 16 July 2021

    Circular Milan

    English Version Lucia Scopelliti, Head of Unit Economic Development at Municipality of Milan, was our guest during our Re-think Circular Economy Forum last October: She explained the actions undertaken by the city of Milan, with the aim to transform the production and consumption flows from linear to circular. Experiences on the circular economy at the city level show that cities have an active role as promoters, facilitators, and enablers of the transition. Cities can act as promoters on circular economy strategies, but they are also facilitators connecting stakeholders operating along the value chains, that are not necessarily used to collaborate with each other. Finally, cities are also key enablers since they provide the conditions for the circular economy to happen, setting up incentives, infrastructures, and mobilizing funds. As cities play a big role in public investment and procurement, subnational governments account for 60% of public investments in OECD countries. Cities can consider green infrastructures, nature-based solutions, and zero energy options. Cities are also laboratories for innovation that generate social and environmental benefits. Most importantly, they play a key role in the circular economy, given the responsibilities for local public services: transports, solid waste, water, and energy. In this sense, cities can really contribute to the circular approach, by developing a forward-looking vision and promoting synergies across all these sectors. Milan has taken a proactive approach on the circularity front, by joining several international organizations, like the Circular Economy 100 led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which also includes the cities of Toronto and London, leading Silicon Valley companies (Apple, Google), and high-profile European businesses (Ikea, Tetra Pak). Milan was welcomed to this program because of three still ongoing efforts. Firstly, the results achieved against food waste and the city’s commitment to creating shorter food chains according to the city Food Policy. Secondly,...
  • By Arianna Sica English Version The term Circular Economy appeared for the first time in Boulding’s article “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth” in 1966, indicating a planned economic system for the reuse of materials in subsequent production cycles with the aim of reducing waste. Since then, this alternative model which aims to substitute the classic one, characterized by a linear production-consumption relation, has entered the discussions of the round tables of the Public and Private Sector, sometimes provoking forms of resistance to its implementation, fueled by individual and social cognitive biases. The footprint of Circular Economy Although the term was conceptualized only during the last century, circular practices such as Upcycling, Downcycling, and Zero Waste aimed at maximizing the value obtainable from resources can already be seen in ancient times. Through the numerous findings received in archaeological excavations, the footprints of the circular economy of the past are being outlined. The goal of these researches is to examine the know-how that cities of the past hold, so that a long-term perspective can help and inform today’s politicians and decision-makers. For example, while today we often discuss the sustainability of “Consumer Cities”, a large part of urban centers in the past was largely self-sufficient through recycling and reuse of resources. Rome In “Recycling and Reuse in the Rome Economy“, several types of materials that the Romans recycled are identified. In the building sector, there were workers involved in the demolition of buildings, and most of the recovered recycled material was presumably acquired from suppliers of building materials. Garments and other textile items that have been recovered from Roman sites feature patches, additions, and other types of repairs that involved the use of material apparently made from used fabrics/garments. Parts of used fabric were also regularly used as padding to...
  • 9 July 2021

    Giovani circolari: EVE1

    By Sofia Fisicaro ‘’Quando ero bambina mi chiedevo spesso come avessi potuto lasciare la mia impronta, contribuire al cambiamento, all’evoluzione, per un mondo migliore. Man mano che crescevo mi rendevo conto che la creatività, l’arte, in particolare la moda, potesse essere il mezzo con cui esprimere questa mia esigenza di trasformare e migliorare ciò che mi circondava. Così, durante una giornata di lockdown, ho capito finalmente come poter essere parte del cambiamento.’’ Mi chiamo Sofia, ho 21 anni, frequento il terzo anno di Fashion Design & Accessories, sono anche la creatrice e designer del brand genderless e sostenibile: EVE1. Durante il percorso di studi all’università, ho iniziato il percorso di avvicinamento al mondo della sostenibilità. Spinta dal desiderio di conoscere i lati “oscuri” del mondo della moda, ho cominciato a evidenziare quante crepe esistessero all’interno di questo sistema produttivo. A partire dall’eccesso di merce prodotta senza una reale necessità o gli sprechi di materiale che dopo qualche tempo venivano ammassati in un magazzino buio e dimenticato. Tutto ciò mi ha reso cosciente della necessità di creare un’alternativa sostenibile e circolare. Cominciando a scrivere la mia tesi di laurea, ho acquisito consapevolezza nel dettaglio dell’universo di sprechi che genera il mondo della moda, tanti purtroppo. Concentrarmi su cosa non posso fare però, non è mai stato il mio forte e lo considero un dispendio inutile di energie, così lasciando da parte i macro-ambienti non controllabili direttamente da me mi sono focalizzata su cosa invece io potessi cambiare nel mio piccolo. A ottobre 2020, durante un pomeriggio di lockdown decisi di sfruttare i momenti di pausa in casa per riordinare tutti i tessuti rimanenti dai vecchi progetti universitari, erano davvero tantissimi e mi sono subito resa conto di quanto fosse stressante l’idea di doverli gettare via inutilmente, così mi sono chiesta: ‘‘Perché...
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