• 19 March 2021

    Circularity from Farm to Fork

    By Francesco Cagnola English Version Once you get to know the functioning of the food system, it is possible to realize that the global dimensions and the complexity of the relationships between the stakeholders involved in this field have become extremely difficult to understand and analyze. Furthermore, paying attention to the transition required for a more sustainable food system that is in harmony with nature, it is clear that this is an environmental as well as an economic-social problem. In order to succeed in this paradigm shift, it is important that this complexity is understood as much as possible by everyone. Although it is a fundamental aspect, the management of organic waste is only one of the necessary actions to be implemented: to reach lasting benefits over time it is necessary to deal with reduction and reuse, as well as focus on recycling processes. On the other hand, understanding the system at the micro level – individual consumers and/or individual companies, meso level – industrial poles, and macro level – city, region, nation, is difficult for everyone. The same is true when trying to understand the management of some thorny situations – or trade-offs – that must be faced during the transition to sustainable systems (for example, the debate regarding the production gap of biological techniques, which have a lower production at equal size cultivated with respect to industrial techniques). Three principles for a circular food system Below, in an attempt to clarify the complexities mentioned above, we refer to the 3 principles introduced by the Ellen McArthur Foundation, and we will follow the path that leads from the producer to the consumer. The latter is explicitly mentioned in the title of the new EU strategy (“From Farm to Fork”, that is “From Farm to Fork”), but few of the non-experts...
  • 12 February 2021

    CE and Lithium-ion Batteries

    English Version By Alessandro Innocenti, Tondo Associate and PhD student at Helmholtz Institute Ulm A Circular Future for Energy Storage The lithium-ion battery is the key technology that is allowing the widespread adoption of electric vehicles,portable electronic devices, and renewable energy storage.Every year, an increasing number of batteries are put into the market: we passed from an installed capacity of 200 GWh of 2014 to more than 700 GWh in 2019, with a forecast of about 8000 GWh by 2030. This also means that more and more batteries will have to be retired every year after their use in one of the mentioned applications. In fact, lithium-ion batteries must be replaced after a certain time, since they show a decrease of the performances caused by inevitable chemical degradation reactions. Spent batteries can be directly sent to recycling for the material recovery, but the economic sustainability of lithium-ion battery recycling strongly depends on the presence of precious metals as cobalt (which is getting phased out for its toxicity) and nickel inside. This is the preferred route for the batteries used in consumer electronics and personal mobility systems, which are usually quite small and with a lower quality if compared to other possible applications. In fact, stricter requirements for batteries are present in the electric vehicle industry, because of the high standards in terms of autonomy and of power set by the manufacturers to be competitive with classic vehicles. Moreover, these standards must be assured for a long time, since no one wants that after one year or two from the purchase, the electric car makes 10-20% less kilometres with each “refill”. In the industry, the common threshold for the end of life of a lithium-ion battery is when it retains 80% of the initial capacity or power. The actual time needed...
  • 9 September 2019

    Built environment

    English Version This article is based on Guglielmo Carra’s speech during “Re-Think Forum”. Guglielmo Carra’s speech opened with the comparison of two pictures that portray the city of Shangai, one of them was taken in the mid-1990s and the other one only a few years ago. The difference is clear: the development of the city in the past 20 years was impressive and this trend is common in all urban contexts in Asia, Africa, South, Centre America and also in Europe. It is estimated that by 2050, about 70% of the global population will live inside these cities. It means that every week, a city of 1,6 million people is built. Cities are a place for people, but also a place where resources, coming from outside, are transported to be consumed with a linear approach. This change will impact the construction sector – that, at the current state, consumes 60% of resources and emit 40% of CO2. Improvements are possible since the constructions sector is the least automated ever, so it is also the least efficient, whose productivity of one hour is still equivalent to the one in 1946. Circular Economy can be the solution, in order to enhance the processes and the resources used, not only in the design of the utilization of the building but also by defining what will happen in the future to those materials and resources used for the construction. The 4 areas by Arup Carra presents some projects by Arup that revolve around 4 thematic areas: The regeneration of natural capital, which consists of transforming the city from a place that consumes resources, to a place where resources are produced and regenerated; The creation of open and shared processes by developing and implementing collaborative processes in addition to the promotion of actions and production...
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