Photo © Ron Watts

Industry and waste: toward the circular economy

A circular economy is restorative by design. By using and reusing natural capital with little to no waste, production and consumption are sustained within the Earth’s natural cycles.
Amy Luers
Global Lead on Sustainability Science at Microsoft; Founder of Sustainability in the Digital Age; Member of the Veolia Institute Foresight Committee



1. The need for a new waste management model

The amount of waste generated has risen ceaselessly since the dawn of the consumer society. This growth is expected to continue with the urbanization of developing countries. In 2018, the world produced two billion metric tons of municipal waste, a fi gure set to increase by a further 70% by 2050 if there is no change of model. Most of the waste is produced in East Asia and the Pacific, followed by South Asia, neck-and-neck with Europe and Central Asia. The environmental and social impacts are increasingly visible. There is a solution at hand: the circular economy, defined in opposition to the linear take-make-waste model. However, the world’s economy in 2020 had a level of circularity of just 8.6%. A number of initiatives exist, but many challenges remain ahead if we are to make the circular transition.

A new model
Joakim Krook
Université de Linköping
A new model
Jacques Vernier
French Extended Producer Responsibility Waste Schemes Commission
A new model
Katie Olley
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
A new model
Alexandre Lemille
ACEN, the African Circular
Economy Network

2. Shifting how the various actors behave

Helping our models transition toward a circular economy requires eff orts by the private sector actors involved in producing goods and services, public sector actors regulating the economic and social spheres, and consumers, whose purchasing choices influence businesses’ current and future strategies. So, how can we nurture the emergence of new ways of consuming and producing? To answer this question, we need to examine the levers at our disposal for shifting the behavior of individuals, authorities and businesses. From new lifestyles and public policies to management indicators and industrial strategies, countless mechanisms exist for infl uencing the behavior of socio-economic actors and fostering the rollout of circular practices.

Adèle Chasson, Laetitia Vasseur
HOP - Halte à l’Obsolescence Programmée (Stop Planned Obsolescence)
Ashleigh McLennan, ICLEI (International Council for
Local Environmental Initiatives)
Birgitte Krebs Schleemann, DGE
Xavier Verne
Shift Project
Zhao Kai
China Association of Circular Economy
Irene Martinetti, World Business Council for Sustainable Development
Jarkko Havas, Ellen MacArthur Foundation
Ingrid Tams, Jacques Tanquerel (Groupe SEB)
Françoise Weber, François Guéneron (Veolia)

3. Pathways to an innovative circular economy

Innovation has a crucial role to play in turning the circular economy’s promises into reality. The concept is currently generating countless innovative projects, but assessing their potential and long-term durability is not easy. What do circular innovations look like? What potential do they have to go beyond local experiments to create economic and ecological value as well as jobs? What partnerships and actors are emerging in relation to this topic? How are these innovative processes put in place and what are the obstacles to their success? These are the questions we ask in Part 3 of this issue as we explore circular economy pathways. To answer them, we have chosen to give a platform to actors that have implemented proven projects providing a good indication of the variety of topics that circular innovations tackle: closed-loop recycling of electric vehicle batteries; creating a reuse and repair economy; online platforms specializing in reuse and second-life products, and the functional economy and circular transition within companies.

Jean-Paul Raillard
Fédération Envie
François Darsy
Signify France