Circular Economy Industry Summit highlights benefits of thinking beyond ‘take, make and dispose’

The “Circular Economy Industry Summit” unfolded on Sept. 26 at the Taipei International ConveNTIOn Center. (Courtesy of LCI)
The “Circular Economy Industry Summit” unfolded on Sept. 26 at the Taipei International ConveNTIOn Center. (Courtesy of LCI)

TAIPEI (The China Post) — The circular economy is more than just a buzz phrase. With the global population predicted to approach 9 billion people by 2030, we all agree that we are using more resources than the planet can provide.

A growing number of companies and government agencies also believe that our future depends on reusing what we have in a sustainable way though. Such a “circular economy” is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.

Participants remarked that there is only one resource that is unlimited – innovation – as an increasing number of companies are developing ingenious ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

These innovative solutions were at the heart of the second edition of “Circular Economy Industry Summit” (台灣國際循環經濟產業高峰會), hosted by Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the European Chamber of Commerce’s Low Carbon Initiative (ECCT LCI), that unfolded on Sept. 26 at the Taipei International Convention Center (TICC).

Speaking at the event, Jang-Hwa Leu (呂正華), director general, Industrial Development Bureau (經濟部工業局) under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Yin-yin Lai (賴瑩瑩), director general, Waste Management Department, Environment Protection Administration (EPA, 環保署廢管處), highlighted the importance of encouraging industrial transformation and waste treatment of household trash, respectively.

Several companies also expanded on the notion of a circular economy, including Angelina Prokofieva, head of Sustainability Greater China, Covestro Polymer China, and Guy Wittich, representative, the Netherlands Trade and Investment Office in Taiwan (NTIO).

Covestro is a LEAD company of the United Nations Global Compact, as well as a nominee in the finals for the 2019 German President’s Award (German Future Prize) with the technology for using CO2 exhaust gas in plastics production to save crude oil.

Angelina Prokofieva is head of Sustainability Greater China, Covestro Polymer China. (Courtesy of LCI)
Angelina Prokofieva is head of Sustainability Greater China, Covestro Polymer China. (Courtesy of LCI)

The Holland Pavilion designed by the NTIO for the Taichung World Flora Expo showcased the idea of achieving a sustainable world too. Unlike a linear economy which is a “take, make, dispose” model of production, a circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input and waste, emissions, and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops, explained Wittich.

By means of recycling and prolonging the life cycles of resources, representatives from Epson, IKEA, Arçelik, Everledger, Scania and Carrefour further highlighted how they carry out the concepts of circular economy and environmental protection in their daily operations.

Tetsuya Mizuno (水野 徹也), general manager of Corp. Planning Department, Seiko Epson Corporation, expanded on the importance of innovation in carrying “office circulation.” By turning challenges into opportunities, IKEA has also succeeded in turning waste into wealth, according to Hugo Asplund, deputy general manager, IKEA Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau.

Koray Derman, head of Purchasing Electronics, Arcelik Group, highlighted the importance of the circular economy in the manufacturing sector, including the development of a foaming technology for plastic injection molding and recycling pet drum for washing machines.

Sammy Su, right, director of Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) at ECCT, hosted a panel discussion on “Green Supply Chain” in the company of various panelists and speakers. (Courtesy of LCI)
Sammy Su, right, director of Low Carbon Initiative (LCI) at ECCT, hosted a panel discussion on “Green Supply Chain” in the company of various panelists and speakers. (Courtesy of LCI)

Leanne Kemp, CEO, Everledger, a tech company using blockchain to create a secure and permanent digital record of an asset’s origin, shared her insight on using technology to expand the scope of the circular economy, while David Lin (林日尉), director of Business Development, Scania, unveiled the latest innovations to help to transform the transportation sector.

Most people don’t know but the circular economy has many potential applications in the transportation and logistics industries, including support production cycles that minimize waste using various metrics.

Marilyn Su (蘇小真), director of CSR & Communication, Carrefour, explained that Carrefour is committed to using recyclable packaging for all its products, starting with its Organic Carrefour products, as of 2020. All polystyrene trays used in the meat, fish and cheese departments will be replaced with recyclable packaging.

While applying the principles of the circular economy may seem like a cost-inducing practice at first, the various experts attending this year’s forum showed that completing a “successful transition” brings value to businesses. Before jumping in, however, they recommended learning the three fundamental principles of the circular economy first.

Marilyn Su is director of CSR & Communication, Carrefour. (Courtesy of LCI)
Marilyn Su is the director of CSR & Communication, Carrefour. (Courtesy of LCI)

To begin with, you need to preserve and enhance natural capital by controlling finite stocks and balancing renewable resource stocks. Next, businesses should aim to optimize resource yields by utilizing products, components and materials to their highest capacity at all times in both technical and biological cycles. Last but not least, they should foster system effectiveness by uncovering and designing out negative externalities.

Once you know your business is ready for a complete change or a pilot project, you need to carry out a cost/benefit analysis and build more time into your development cycle with data and best practices, they concluded in order to develop proper metrics, methodologies and benchmarks.

By Dimitri Bruyas