The circular economy, recycling products after use, is cheap and environmentally friendly – but is it up to companies, consumers or the government to drive it forward? Sponsored feature A circular economy has long been a very good idea.
A great interview with a somewhat eccentric will.i.am about waste and technology and disruption. It mirrors a lot of what I've been saying. I do think that a step change really is possible.
Some extracts from the interview:
The reason why a city doesn't recycle is because people don't see waste as a commodity. They see waste as waste. I was like wow, with the technology we have today it's only waste because we waste the opportunity to turn it into something else. So let's not recycle, let's upcycle.
We have designed a system where you purchase something, it breaks and you throw it away and it's not useful in the next cycle but you still value the brand that produced it. That's some new shit and not what it was like when my grandma was in her 20s. In 1930 you purchased something that would last forever. There is a reason why antiques are antiques. The iPhone is never going to be a fucking antique because it's not going to work when it gets to that age
An interesting article about a shift in thinking in Humboldt County, California about the opportunity presented by recycling as remanufacturing rather than landfill diversion.
The ideas expressed here neatly encapsulate my own thinking on "a world without waste", that it is more about entrepreneur led opportunity than government mandate.
From the article:
"Humboldt County will be able to benefit from this win-win situation the way we always get things done: creative problem-solvers working cooperatively to produce new products made from recycled materials, open new markets, and achieve the economy-of-scale necessary to grow our businesses."
ATMI has developed eVolv, a very interesting technology for recycling e-waste, essentialy separating out the precious metals for reinserting back into the productive economy as raw materials:
The process is completed in a closed-loop system using a series of chemical baths, and desoldering techniques which reclaim much of the precious metal components for reuse. This technique is 99 percent sustainable, and can be implemented locally, directly in a manufacturer's warehouse. This approach also helps to relieve the global issue of e-Waste being broken down in poorer regions of the world where it affects human welfare, and the environment.
This was announced almost a year ago, however the eVolve website doesn't give any case studies of where the technology has been deployed. Perhaps something worth watching.
Cigarette butts are the most commonly reported item in litter counts. That is partially because they are so small and easy to think that tossing one away will make no difference, but also because they last so long (up to 15 years, and even then they don't degrade).
Greenbutts is a new filter that will biodegrade in a few weeks. This could be a very good thing for addressing litter.
The people behind the filter plan to have it on the market by 2014.
Animal Coffin is made from the materials coffee grounds, potato starch, flour, human hair and cardboard.
Animal Coffin is a biodegradable coffin made from recycled waste materials with flower- and tree seeds embedded. A tree will grow where the beloved animal is buried, thus providing a long-lasting memorial.
By giving waste material a second life Animal Coffin both provides an alternative for waste handling, conserves new resources and provides the opportunity to bid farewell of a beloved pet.
The Optisort Battery Sorter (OBS) uses a combination of computer vision and advanced classification technology to identify batteries based on brand, model, year and chemistry. Once the data is processed, batteries are then separated using compressed air techniques.
The information garnered by the OBS provides waste management companies and industry associations with a better understanding of battery recycling flows.
A quote from Hans Eric Melin, CEO of Optisort, sums it up perfectly: “As batteries can be processed on a case-by-case basis, it opens up numerous business and environmental opportunities for recyclers, compliance schemes and manufacturers".
This data shared publicly could initiate an explosion of innovation around the manufacture, collection and recycling of batteries.
Boeing and Alcoa have formed a "Closed Loop" Programme to improve the recycling of aluminium aerospace alloys.
The programme will improve the recycling of 2XXX and 7XXX series aluminium alloys used in wing and fuselage components. It is reported that about 8 million points of aluminium (3,600 tonnes) is expected to be recycled annually.
The programme will also provide the infrastructure to expand the programme to improving recycling from Boeing sub-contractors, and to incorporate other aluminium scrap forms.
Trex Co. Inc is revamping its thin-film collection and recycling programme in Southern California. The programme initially started in 2008 but faded, in large part because of technical issues. The old balers apparently struggled with reliability, and the large bales were difficult to manage. The revamped programme uses compressed-air mini-balers that produce bales weighing a little over 20 kg.
Trex makes composite decking from the bags, with the bags comprising more than 95% recycled content. The key components are polyethylene plastics and sawdust.
The coffee and donut giant has diverted thousands of paper cups from landfill by turning them into trays.
The way it works is that Tim Hortons shops have recycling units collecting hot beverage cups, lids, napkins and trays. Collection contractors and paper haulers take the stuff to Scotia Recycling Limited, which sorts and compresses recycled products into bales. The bales are delivered to CKF, a Canadian-owned paper product manufacturer based in Nova Scotia, which then processes the bales, molding them into new trays that can be sold back to Tim Hortons restaurants.
This story focuses on the recycling element. Tim Hortons also offers incentives to use reusable cups. No doubt this recycling approach is needed because a lot of coffee goes out in disposable cups.
The Guardian has recently launced a circular economy hub. It is a very exciting development, as it incirporates a sense of the business model alongside the technology.
To use the words of the Guardian, the circular economy is "a radically different business model from the linear one we are used to, and a compelling concept. Keeping resources in the economy for longer means diverting valuable materials from landfill and reducing the energy, land and water use necessary for primary production"
It is exactly what this Scoop.it magazine is about, and hopefully the hub will move from strength to strength.
An article about a plant shipped by the Russian Technokomplex company to Colombia indicates an interesting take on tyre recycling. A pyrolysis plant, it converts 5 tonnes/day of waste tyres intol liquid fuel, carbon black, steel and gas to run the plant.
In a market where there are many vendors promoting pyrolysis solutions to waste tyres, it is hard to know whether this is a real solution or a partial solution like so many others have proven to be. This may be worthy of further research at some point.
The Ford Mondeo (Ford Fusion in USA) is the first global vehicle program to use seat fabric made from recycled material, with the potential to recycle enough plastic bottles and post-industrial waste to make 1.4 million metres of fabric annually.
One of the suppliers is Unifi, which has developed a yarn branded Repreve. Repreve is a polyester yarn made from recycled PET bottles.
Creating a world of no waste means that markets for recycled materials must be strong and diverse. Steps such as this are steps in the right direction.
This is a great thing to see - an explicit recognition of the value of waste. Indeed, the article even takes a similar tack to what I've been advocating. Rather than calling these materials "waste", call them "byproducts" and seek to maximise the information surface area so that the waste can be used.
This particular article refers to how the public sector is helping the private sector make these connections. Imagine the power when the free-wheeling dynamism of entrepreneurial business gets in on the act!
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