The concept of a Circular Economy, allows us to adapt an economic model fundamentally by moving away from the classical linear model of take-make-dispose. This model appears to be a long-term solution to solve pollution and resource scarcity issues, as well as address climate challenges sensibly. A circular economy certainly proposes a paradigm shift towards a reformative economic system, where wastes are brought into the system of production by maximization of reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling. This allows for the creation of a closed-loop system, which in turn minimizes the use of resource input and the creation of waste.
What is interesting here is that to make this radical change possible and for the deployment of a full-scale Circular Economy it requires innovative ways of relooking the production systems and consumption.
Innovation to the rescue
The Circular Economy can be facilitated by innovation, which includes the introduction of new technologies. Innovation also means the introduction of innovative business models. So, to start with, it facilitates technological innovation and how it helps promote circularity. Taking the circular economy route involves a lot of changes and adapting to these changes can make a lot of difference. To start with it facilitates behavioral changes by consumers, who need to embrace different lifestyles and consumption modes, and secondly, it involves regulatory changes, involving the introduction of new regulations that define the end-of-life products and secondary raw materials. In this two-fold scheme of marked changes, technological innovation is a key enabler making the path to the use of technology in the products’ value chain fruitful and effective.
The technological innovation that offers a completely new solution is needed to turn biodegradable plastics or other recyclable waste into fibers. Technology is also rightfully needed to turn fibers into fabric and therefore give more purpose to the waste. Without technology or innovation at play, segregation, development, and other such processes will not be possible manually. Technology sparingly is also required to spread the right word about the recycled product, through digital channels. It is also important to use technology to educate the consumer and make them adapt to circular fashion. As a whole technology vehemently supports circularity at every stage and innovation just makes the process a big whole.
Let’s look at how some of the leading organizations from across the world are walking the circularity path with technology support.
Innovating ways to get more circular
EIT RawMaterials, the world’s largest community dedicated to innovation and education in the raw materials domain, has been brought to action and is funded by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT), a body of the European Union. EIT RawMaterials connects roughly 400 organizations from leading industries, universities, research and technology organizations (the so-called knowledge triangle) from more than 20 EU countries.
EIT RawMaterials is responsible for making the Design of Products and Services for the Circular Economy. The partners for the organization gathered by the EIT RawMaterials collaborate in implementing innovation projects and education projects. As of 2019, the project portfolio for this organization includes almost 240 projects that are expected to result in the introduction of innovative and sustainable products, processes, and services that will benefit the European countries greatly. Working within certain strict aspects of circularity, the fundamental objectives of this organization is laced in technology and innovation and the concept is designed strategically to give impetus to circular economy growth all across sectors and domains.
The time to act responsibly to sow the seeds of a circular economy is now, but the transformation will not happen overnight and it is time to take one step at a time to make it possible. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation and many other such reputed organizations leading the movement of circularity, globally highlight how creating the right model, incentive plan, and structures will help move from the linear economy towards a circular economy. The transition will be possible through a disciplined movement and a systematic approach that is driven by innovation and technology. It is all about connecting the dots to drive supply and demand and establish the landscape for innovation and the circular economy to flourish.
Global recognition of circularity
To explore how innovation can drive the circular economy transition, countries all across the globe are putting best practices and identifying policy recommendations. It is now time to formulate more steady practices and make it a justified change, rather than wait for something to happen eventually. However, it is important to understand that simply promoting innovation is not enough. To support the clauses and standing of a circular economy, innovation needs to be pursued with an objective in mind. To bring out the full potential of innovation it is necessary to put in place a dedicated and sustained policy effort, which is capable of enabling frameworks and incentives for private innovation efforts and to encourage consumers to rapidly and broadly adopt innovative and more sustainable consumption patterns. Basically, it is necessary for the government and the policymakers to give an object to innovation and streamline the path for innovation. It is important to define the goals you want to achieve through innovation at the end of the journey. This purposeful approach will help by making it more inclusive and ready for circularity.
In Scotland for instance the government has incorporated the Zero Waste Scotland plan, which puts in place a wide range of supporting tools, including business support services to help find new growth opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises. This sort of directive and focused plan helps with the initiation of technology and innovation into the path of circularity and helps promote it through best practices. In a similar vein, other countries too are identifying varied areas for the implementation of technology and innovation to support circular business with the identification of key sectors such as recycling, transport, logistics, and consumer connect. It is time to make innovation and circularity more inclusive and it will only happen through the right approaches and a bigger degree of responsibility shared by each one.