How can manufacturers benefit from implementing circular economy principles? This is a key question that guides the work of HSSMI and we are ambitious about exploring it in detail and forging closer ties with organisations and experts active in circular economy. We are proud members of both the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and the Future Fashion Factory and last month we were excited to add Tevi to our list of partners and participate in their webinar entitled “Manufacturing in a circular economy” on 23 April.
Tevi is a unique EU-funded venture, which aims to create both economic and environmental growth in the Cornwall area and the Isles of Scilly. The initiative supports SME enterprises to become more efficient with their natural resource use and to minimise their waste in smart and innovative ways as part of the global transition towards a circular economy. Our experts Alberto Minguela and Francisca Krabberod were thrilled at the opportunity to contribute their expertise, when Tevi approached HSSMI with the idea of creating a webinar on circular economy.
Dr. Edvard Glucksman, Impact Partnership Development Manager at Tevi said about our cooperation and the webinar: “Tevi supports SMEs across Cornwall to grow whilst contributing to the county’s transition towards a circular economy. We were delighted to once again work with HSSMI, benefitting from their expertise to provide our enterprises with vital background knowledge and practical actions that will help them grow the scale and quality of their operations. Alberto and Francisca successfully completed the difficult task of putting circular economy challenges in the context of the global pandemic whilst also framing the content on a regional scale, something that was highly appreciated by the enterprises, policymakers and expert academics in the audience. We look forward to future collaboration with their team as our programme develops!”
The webinar began with a brief introduction into circular economy in a manufacturing context, presented by Alberto and Francisca, but extensive time was allocated to a question and answer session which generated an insightful discussion on everything from recycling, waste collection, Cradle-to-Cradle certifications, resource security, identifying and reusing the resources around us, and creating robust product life cycle cost assessments. Read on to explore all these topics or, if you prefer to watch the entire webinar, it is now possible on the Tevi website here.
Have your own question about how you can benefit from circular economy? Then we invite you to drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tevi webinar “Manufacturing in a circular economy” | Q&A Session Excerpts
Why do you assume circularity will increase security and material availability?
It is not so much that circular economy increases material availability or security, but it creates an alternative option for it. Instead of being reliant on a supplier from a possibly geopolitically troubled area, businesses are able to add a buffer by having other suppliers. Even better, if you can find a local supplier to capture and extract value from their waste streams. By adding circular economy into the mix, you partially suppress the global dependence on supply chains. Businesses can create an inventory, such as material passports, of all the materials available. This enables you to consider what materials you can reuse and/or recycle, extending their lifetime and decreasing your reliance on supply chains.
Is there any data/statistics available on cost savings for remanufacturing and refurbishing?
There is a very interesting All-Party Parliamentary Sustainable Resource Group report from the UK Government, released back in 2014 it includes some very interesting figures from environmental impact, cost savings to job creation that are still valid today. There is also an organisation called REMATEC, established to organise the largest remanufacturing event, which looks into the remanufacturing industry and publishes different reports, newsletters and case studies where you can find different cost savings. You can also look at information from the European Remanufacturing Council or the Association of Auto Parts Manufacturers. These would be a great starting point. However, it is important to say that these are all estimations of cost savings and that these will vary with each product.
How can we make low value-added circular products without importing them from so-called low-cost countries?
We should challenge the assumption that it is only possible to import these products. As mentioned before, it is important to explore Urban Mining options we have and using and repurposing the resources around us. It might be that importing low value-added products from China or India is cheap, but it could be that these materials already exist around you, unnoticed. The materials might not be virgin, but you can repurpose and rework them.
How do you ensure the return elements of circular models are integrated into calculating environmental benefits? Would transportation emissions of the returns offset the environmental benefits?
The return elements need to be integrated when you are scoping the boundaries of the life cycle assessment (LCA). LCAs are a fantastic assessment tool and HSSMI can help you carry it out, but they can also be very confusing, as the results vary based on the parameters that are taken into account.
As for transportation emissions, if we look at more indigenous, localised supply chains and we have a customer base that is not too far from us, in these cases the transport emissions are negligible. At HSSMI we have looked at the LCA for packaging of the parts reaching a manufacturing plant in the UK, and we found that transport does not result in as many emissions as extracting the materials or making the product, even when the parts are supplied from overseas economies. If we take into account electrification and the transition we are seeing in transport, it is very likely that the environmental impact of transport overall will decrease in the years to come.
Redeploying businesses and expertise to environmentally sustainable products seems like a good way to “green” the economy. Any thoughts on how this could work on a very large scale? Maybe by transitioning the oil and gas industry into renewables there could be some great gains from the North Sea energy industry?
I think you are spot on with the oil and gas industry. In Norway, for example, there is a big controversy around Equinor, which is the government-owned oil company. The government has been under a lot of hardship during the 2008 recession and having to transition into renewable models and they have been investing heavily into offshore wind particularly here in the UK. But it is also about putting them under the right conditions to enable that transition. Global events like the recession or the current pandemic, put pressure on these industries so that they need to transition. However, there are also other big industries, for example agriculture, where large shifts need to happen in the way they operate.
What weaknesses does the waste collection system have in order to achieve a full recycling of valuable raw materials? Perhaps there is a need for more specific recycling companies at local level?
The shift needs to happen in both the capacity of recycling companies to, as well as on the consumer side by limiting waste in the first place. Then we need to find solutions to the waste and avoid leakages into the general waste stream. In the UK, the waste collection system is very disjointed – each council or municipality has their own collection system, their own way of dealing with it. And that is very confusing for the user and the public. There is an organisation called RECOUP, which issues a full report on waste collection streams across the UK and which shows more detail on this. We would encourage rethinking first and involving all the actors at the local level. Council and municipalities need to have a dialogue with users and recycling companies.
Do you think it would be helpful to add the Cradle-to-Cradle certification to help make businesses more circular?
Definitely. The certification looks at different elements of the product and how it is made, from social stewardship to water use, to material sourcing, even how the company treats its employees. Based on this careful analysis, you will find that the Cradle-to-Cradle certification is quite trustworthy and really signifies a more circular product. And it also helps people make their businesses more circular.