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From lines to circles

The world we live in is facing an unprecedented waste crisis. The linear model of waste collection, treatment and disposal which the world embraced for the last 100 years has left us with a highly effective process to hide, ignore and forget the waste we produce on a daily basis. Alas, we have reached a point where we can not ignore the results of our own actions any longer: illegal waste dumping is a global phenomenon, landfills are overflowing, our oceans are filled with plastics and GHG emissions from waste are a sizable contributor to climate change.

Many proclaim the only viable solution to this situation has to be a strict reduction of production and consumption, a deliberate and large scale shrinking of the world economies and an overall renouncement of our current lifestyle. Too many of our daily comforts rely on cheap energy, cheap production, and virtually free disposal as we defer the consequences of our collective actions beyond our own time horizon. The abundant availability of “waste-vanishing-capacity” is a tragedy of the commons, perpetuating an unsustainable use of the world we live in.

While we at NEEW Ventures absolutely see the need for change in many of today’s economic fundamentals, we strongly believe that there are ways to reconcile prosperity and growth with a sustainable future. At the core of a solution to this crisis is an economy which restores the balance of supply chains and disposal processes. Where the complexity and efficiency of global supply chains, which cater to our every need, is matched with an equally capable “resupply chain”, ensuring the highest degree of post-consumer resource utilisation. While this statement might seem obvious it provides a few fundamental concepts worth discussing:

The current linear waste value chain provides seemingly frictionless collection, treatment and disposal of our waste. – cheap, convenient and invisible. It is fuelled by opaque and mandatory fees for end-consumers, which offer little to no incentive to change our individual behaviour, while undercutting any effort or desire for innovation and fundamental change in the management of waste. The modern waste industry is rooted in a linear flow of “value extraction” and waste “removal”. The system as is, offers little incentive for information exchange and collaboration beyond the scope mandated by law. Providing additional data can be a burden at best and a serious business risk at worst. A sustainable future requires a holistic understanding of a product’s or a material’s lifecycle and of the economic realities of all parties involved – a sustainable future requires profits to stem from external cooperation and transparency.

The circular economy requires a systemic shift in the way we think about waste and the way we manage it. Collaboration and cooperation between all parties are paramount to its success. This requires a transparent and open dialogue between stakeholders, with a focus on sharing data and best practices. Marketeers, product designers, and businesses must work together to promote circular products and services, and to educate consumers about the importance of recycling and the reduction of dead end waste. Recyclers, waste treatment facilities, and governments must work together to ensure that the necessary infrastructure and technology are in place. Continuous innovation on the waste side must outperform developments in the pre-consumer supply chain. Only by working together and embracing the principles of the circular economy can we close the loop of material flows and create a more sustainable future.

Digitalisation is a key component of the transition to a circular economy. Transparency and data sharing are essential for a sustainable and efficient resource use. The waste management sector must embrace digitalisation and make data accessible to all parties, including businesses, governments, and citizens. Digitalisation and optimisation of waste management processes are equally as important to standardise processes, reducing errors and increasing efficiency.

We believe, the transition to a circular economy in waste management is essential to address the waste crisis facing the world today. The linear model of waste collection, treatment and disposal is no longer sustainable, and must be replaced by a system that preconceives materials in a circular flow. Awareness raising and education, the implementation of new business models, investment in technology and innovation, and digitalisation are all key components in the shift to a circular economy. The success of this transition in the waste management industry depends on collective action and cooperation between all parties.

Let’s turn that line into a circle!


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