June 25, 2014 | By Feike Sijbesma
We are currently in a linear economy. We find and extract raw materials, including agricultural products, we process and consume these and then throw our goods away, even calling them “waste”. Today, members of the Circular Economy 100 along with business and academic leaders meet in London for the annual Circular Economy 100 summit to explore systemic issues surrounding the move towards a circular system, where all kinds of – intermediate – forms of waste will be the input for the next round(s) of producing products.
With a circular approach we can address the big challenges regarding the world food problem, the uneven distribution and consumption of raw materials, waste, climate change and developing new (bio-) renewable alternative energy sources.
From a linear to circular world
When you look to the world, to nature, to the universe, everything is circular. Everything in the universe turns and processes in circles. Life itself is circular. Nature has already discovered that you can only keep a process going when it is circular.
We often talk about the scarcity of raw materials, including agricultural crops. This is true and untrue at the same time, since in reality there are no scarce resources; we just make them scarce. When you think about it, there are no atoms leaving our planet, except perhaps for some helium. Almost all atoms stay on earth, but often at a different location or blended and mixed in a different way.
For instance, a lot of carbon that used to be underground in the form of coal, oil and gas is now, after being used (burnt) in the air, bounded with oxygen and we call it carbon dioxide or CO2. Metals dug up from mines in Africa are back in Africa, but this time as part of a large e-waste-dump. These atoms or metals are difficult to re-use, since they are mixed with others, but they haven’t left our planet.
In order to continue using raw materials and providing for all people in the world, we should change and reorganise our world around four main elements: (1) redesign supply chains; (2) innovation and technology development; (3) change in consumer behavior; (4) policies and regulations that enable such changes….
Feike Sijbesma is the Chairman of the Board of DSM and a member of SDNS’s Leadership Council. Read the full op-ed at The Guardian.