On the 22nd of October, Greenfish welcomed both Anthony Naralingom, the Coordinator of circlemade.brussels cluster, and Guido Wauters, Chief Organisational Development Officer at Indaver to discuss on the contribution of circular business models to a sustainable future. The session was moderated by Quentin Meekers, Lead Consultant at Greenfish, who activated the discussion on the topic.

Framing the context with Anthony Naralingom

First of all, what is a circular economy?  The Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation gives the following definition:

“Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital.”

In addition, ADEME describes how the circular economy functions by defining three areas of action and 7 pillars:

 

Figure 1 – Circular Economy by ADEME

 

Years ago, worst-case scenario analyses predicted our current economic issues in which the world’s physical boundaries are being exceeded. Despite this, we, humans, kept producing and consuming more and more goods, making the GDP rising constantly. Still today, increased effort needs to be done regarding the decoupling of our economic activity and its environmental impact. From there, circular economy was born. It allows to create economic value within the limits of our environment thanks to business opportunities that were not considered before and yet, are competitive on our markets.

Currently, Belgium accounts for 262.000 circular jobs, or 7.5% of the total number of jobs, according to a report by the King Baudouin Foundation and the Circle Economy organisation.

From a company’s perspective, the circular business model can follow four strategies:

  1. Less is more: more value is created with fewer resources thanks to eco-design and by working on one’s supply chain.
  2. Close the loop: this happens by reselling, refurbishing or re-purposing, remanufacturing or recycling the products. This is for instance what happens at Permafungi: they produce mushrooms from coffee grounds that would be wasted otherwise.
  3. Make it last: products are designed to last longer, avoiding programmed obsolescence. This is how the clothes maker Bonjour Maurice, or the wooden structures of MODS integrate the circular economy.
  4. Use better: the use of a valuable product is maximized, for example through a sharing economy. This is the principle of companies like BlaBlaCar, optimizing the use of a car.

Diving into practice with the Indaver case of Guido Wauters

Indaver not only runs wastewater facilities in Belgium focusing on sustainable energy and material management but also proposes intelligent Total Waste Management solutions to the market. The trend towards the circular economy surely influences the waste management landscape. Indaver, which positions itself as a gatekeeper who separates waste and as an enabler of recycling, predicts that the volumes and the compositions of waste to be treated will change over the years.

Its role of gatekeeper allows Indaver to divide the waste between low- and high-circular potential waste, the latter being treated to recover materials and energy. Indaver’s action plan to embrace the circular economy entails four tasks:

  1. Ensuring the functionality of installations’ changes like fluidised bed incinerators and grate incinerators. This strategic action allowed for the birth of the Ecluse project, a channel for green energy benefitting six surrounding companies in Doel.
  2. Taking part in the industrial ecology such as in Dunkirk with the IndaChlor project with the support of Greenfish consultants. This requires tight collaboration with local partners to benefit from all potential synergies.
  3. Focussing on molecular recycling: Indaver has methods of recovery per specific metal. For instance, some metals are treated with fluorescent powder whereas others undergo a classic ash treatment. IndaMP in Antwerp is an example of such a plant
  4. Innovating from a tech-perspective: all the types of plastics are not recyclable today. Indaver wants to contribute to decreasing the amount of plastic in our environment, insisting on the fact that litter is to be decreased along with local recycling. The P2C plant in Antwerp aims to produce results on this matter soon.

So… What have we learned?

The circular economy is rising and can definitely lead the way towards a sustainable future. This because it makes us realize that resources are limited but can offer more value than what we used them for in the past. Indaver already started to think in systems and launched several projects that illustrate how companies can walk the talk for a truly circular economy.

Circular economy is expected to grow strongly over the coming years. Let us all embrace the change!

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