Circular economy – an environmentally friendly business opportunity

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The transition to an integrated circular economic model is crucial to reduce environmental degradation and give priority to biodiversity and environemnt, while contributing to future competitiveness. In a circular economy, waste is transformed into raw materials and the products are returned to the production system at the end of use. As a result, growth is separate from the consumption of limited natural resources, and the materials are in productive use for as long as possible. Accelerating this transition depends on the introduction of new innovative business models and technological innovations. Forging the path to a truly circular economy requires systemic cooperation. Today, multinational organizations with increasingly complex supply chains and processes may struggle to keep pace with increasingly advanced circular innovations, and sometimes they may lack the capacity needed to adopt new ways of operating in the transition to circular business. Conversely, small businesses may have solutions to these challenges, but they may lack the capital, resources, or networks to quickly copy and customize their solutions. These problems are addressed by The Circulars, an upgrade of the Cricular Awards program hosted by Accenture, Anglo American, Ecolab and Schneider Electric, and digitally hosted by the WEF UpLink platform for sustainable innovation. Circulars Accelerator has already attracted more than 200 diverse participants in the first call for applications. Following a highly competitive multi-stage selection process, 17 start-ups were selected to participate in the program. Start-ups are classified into one of three types of solutions needed for circular transformation, which together cover the entire value chain and respond to specific circular challenges: innovative products and production, consumption transformation and value recovery. Examples of each are highlighted below.

The cluster of innovative products and production includes innovators who strive to design and supply pioneering products, packaging and manufacturing solutions, taking advantage of new approaches to design and innovation of materials and components. One such innovator that is changing the current situation is the Malaysian innovator StixFresh, whose patented technology extends the shelf life of fresh produce by up to 14 days.

Transforming consumption addresses the issue that we currently consume 1.75 times more resources each year than the Earth can naturally renew. Innovators are working to design new circular consumption models, including product as service, expanding product use (e.g., repairs, secondary markets), and exchange platforms. Algramo is a Chilean start-up whose multi-channel multi-brand platform technology allows manufacturers and retailers to sell consumers reusable smart packaging goods at the lowest possible prices.

The value recovery cluster favors solutions that shut down our existing linear system. This group of innovators has put in place new ways to enable the reuse of products and the recovery of embedded value from waste or end-of-life products. Mint Innovation, an exciting urban mining company based in New Zealand, is developing low-cost and scalable processes to extract precious metals from e-waste streams. The UN estimates that more than 10 billion $ of precious metals are disposed of annually as e-waste. Mint Innovation’s clean processes use hydrometallurgy and biotechnology to reduce this waste stream and allow circulation of precious metals. They recently secured 20 million $ funding, and plan to supply biorefineries in the UK and Australia. These devices will be able to process up to 3,500 tons of e-waste each year.

Source: TheCircularsAccelerator, ThePrint

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