Climate and climate change are deeply politicized topics, but that shouldn’t detract from their importance outside the sphere of political ambitions: we – individuals, businesses and all manner of organizations – are over-consuming. Changing our consumption habits is the least and the most any of us can do, to preserve the planet for future generations. Or, as the head of the Clean Turku cluster in Turku Science Park Ltd., Linda Fröberg-Niemi puts it, moderation is always better for the environment.
The sustainable way forward is through Circular Economy. It’s a broad concept, much like climate, and it can be applied by individuals, companies, entire countries and industries – and for us to realize its full potential, it must be implemented in both city and industry development.
If you have done it once, don’t do it twice!
Circular Economy focuses on decreasing the use of virgin materials and reshaping productive processes to keep materials in economical circulation for a longer time. With circulation fully implemented, production processes will produce only minimal waste, as any excess that cannot be avoided will be used in other processes. For every step in the value chain, there’s a cleantech solution to help save energy, materials and fumes.
It’s all about changing how we think.
Circular Economy will mean a variety of new service models that aim to go easy on the globe while keeping earnings and the world economy stable. The old revenue logic of using more materials to sell more does serve to keep the world economy growing, for a time, but our ability to produce materials is inevitably limited.
In the old model, companies produce a specific amount of their product with a risk of product loss. The new model is about selling service, instead. For example, instead of selling cars, a company can sell time to drive. It’s no longer of intrinsic value to the producer to produce as much as possible, but to create as targeted a service as possible.
VALUE FOR COMPANIES
As consumers become more informed and conscious, there is an increased need for transparency of companies’ value chains and production methods.
At some point the consumer will want to know how even their toilet paper is produced and whether the process uses bleach, or recycled or virgin chemicals.
Circular Economy also figures into companies’ competitiveness. Future competitiveness lies in the ability to consider the environment and climate change in designing products and production models.
There are challenges in producing and using recycled materials. The biggest advantages will be seen in industries where there are high volumes of waste or production side streams. It’s currently not cost-efficient for most companies to process their own side streams, but this can be changed through investing in product development, technologies and research as well as symbioses with other companies. Today, the virgin material is cheap for us but too expensive for the globe. Tomorrow, recycled materials could benefit both the entrepreneur and the environment.
Granted, if you already have an optimized process, it’s not appealing to risk, for example, changing the materials of your product. But we already have the knowledge to use new technologies and handle materials more efficiently – and should focus on building more knowledge for the future.
When we talk about product design or formatting, it’s not rocket science. It’s just logical understanding that can be achieved by any bachelor’s degree student. It’s more about wanting to do it.
What needs more than wanting is the technology, and as such, Circular Economy doesn’t come down to just individuals and businesses, but whole societies. It’s the future experts in natural physics, for example, who will help to pave the way with new innovations.
Finland can be the one to develop the solutions that the rest of the world can use when it’s ready.
Every country is at a different level. In Circular Economy, recycling is the starting point. In Finland we have a solid recycling system where materials or waste very rarely end up in the environment. On the other hand, our planet has countries that aren’t as developed, do not recycle, and there we see plastic bags on beaches. Before those plastic bags can be turned into new products via Circular Economy, basic recycling needs to be implemented.
CLIMATE SOLUTIONS, NOT CLIMATE SHAMING
The traditional “produce and destroy” won’t work anymore, because consumers and laws will demand more. The environment needs to be considered in all businesses to maintain competitiveness, and young innovators can bring new solutions to the table. The discussion is pervasive enough that no one can avoid hearing it, and each and every one of us participates in it, in some way.
We hope to carry that discussion with a hopeful note. The SHIFT 2019 Circular Economy track focuses on many things that have already been done, especially those things that have been done well in Turku and in all of Finland. The track showcases international opportunities, companies working in the field, and how Finland can be the front runner of development.