Trends Impact Awards: how to ensure waste circularity?  - Companies

Trends Impact Awards: how to ensure waste circularity? – Companies

The Trends Impact Awards will reward SMEs and large companies that have a lasting impact on their environment. Prizes will be awarded in six categories, while a Global Impact Award will be given to the most comprehensive project. This week, we present to you the Trends Impact Award Economy.

Find all the articles of the Trends Impact Award

The fifth summit of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), held in Nairobi in April, resulted in a commitment that could be decisive in the fight against plastic. At this summit, 175 countries decided to adopt a legally binding treaty by 2024 on plastic pollution, from product design to recycling. Such an agreement is however long awaited… Although everyone has heard of the “plastic soup” of the North Pacific Ocean, also called “trash vortex”, the problem remains greatly underestimated. Every year, 11 million tonnes of plastic are dumped into the oceans. If no action is taken, it is expected that within 30 years the amount of plastic in our seas will exceed that of fish. The treaty which must be adopted within two years aims to reduce by 2040 by 80% the tonnage of plastic dumped in the oceans. For this, it is necessary to produce less plastic. However, this is essential for a whole series of products. Plastic is just one example of how the linear economy depletes raw materials and passes on to society the external costs of waste disposal. The challenge is to design products in such a way that the plastic can be reused in the economy. The economy is in transition, it is evolving from a linear economy to a circular economy. A circular economy tries to close the cycle by not depleting stocks of raw materials, by using renewable energies and by reusing residual materials. There will be no more waste and natural ecosystems will be able to recover. Product developers have a key role to play. They can design products in which the entire life cycle is considered from the start of product design. At the design stage, they need to know what will happen to the components when the product reaches the end of its life (cradle to cradle). Companies cannot always put their waste back into the economic circuit on their own. A residue that has no interest for the producing company can be reused in a completely different sector. It is therefore important that companies have a good view of the whole economic circuit in which they operate and that they seek solutions with other companies and sectors. “There can be examples of upcycling, a big trend is to collect plastic from the oceans and turn it into something useful. Think of a company that collects fishing nets and makes mats out of them, or that uses plastic from bottles to design textiles, says Wayne Visser, professor of sustainable transition at the Antwerp Management School.You can take materials out of e-waste and reuse them, eliminate everything related to waste and create closed cycles .” “Some projects focus on transforming waste into value-added products, explains Jochen Vincke, partner of the PwC consulting firm. Umicore, for example, recovers materials from electronic waste. This is something that is perpetuated in all industrial processes. How to make the flow of chemical waste circular? Companies are now strongly engaged in these questions.” Companies can also make their office buildings ‘circular’, says Wayne Visser. “A house or an office, instead of consuming energy and water, can produce more energy than it consumes or produce cleaner water than that which entered the building, points out “We can apply this to so many things. Anything that is considered waste should have a positive impact, not a negative one like it does now.” 1. The German company Knauf can recycle leftover insulation wool. This reduces construction waste. When a strip of excess wool insulation was cut on a job site, the only option was to throw it away. It can now be used to make “bricks” that serve as raw materials for new insulation products. 2. Dutch durable smartphone maker Fairphone designs its smartphones so that they can be used for as long as possible. One way to achieve this is through a modular design that allows people to order spare parts online and repair their device themselves. This way the device lasts longer. At the same time, the company makes sure that the parts of the smartphone are as durable as possible and that they are free of conflict minerals, for example.


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