20 Oct 2019

Circular economy

You may have heard the term ‘circular economy’ thrown around the sustainability world, but what exactly is it talking about? Fortunately, in ASAP we have two thought leaders on the subject in the business, SCA and Stena Recycling.  We have spoken to Katarina Kolar from SCA and Malin Baltzar from Stena Recycling AB, to find out more about this key sustainability tool and why it is so important in business today!

Since the industrial revolution, we have been running our economies on very linear models: we take raw materials, make products and then discard them. This worked fine when it seemed our resources were limitless, but now we are fully aware that is not the case; there is no planet B! This is where the idea of a circular economy model comes in. By designing our products better, cycling discarded products back into the system, and restoring ecosystems, we can achieve a sustainable model that can continue into the future! Sounds like a great idea, right? That’s because it is a great idea, and the reason why our partners are already working actively with circular economy models.
 

SCA

Katerina has been with SCA for over 30 years. Coming into the business with a chemical engineering background, she has had the opportunity to develop within the company and try several different positions. Her latest challenge is taking on the position of SCA’s Sustainability Director.
Working with a circular economy model is very important to SCA right now; as she highlights, we need to take care of our limited resources for the future. Businesses can no longer be the sole players in an industry: it is important for SCA to not only be as efficient as possible within the company with their raw materials, but also with their partners outside. This includes thinking carefully about the design of products to reduce the mixing of raw materials, and make separating and recycling the materials easy and efficient after they have been used.
 
Some of the challenges SCA are facing with achieving a circular economy model come down to infrastructure and organisation. There is new information and knowledge continuously and it is hard for policy makers to keep up with this to bring in the changes needed. So how can we help? For us as students and consumers, Katerina advices us to use our buying power and, by choosing more sustainable products, we can help make the transition to circular economy models quicker. We need to be adaptive too, adjusting and embracing new materials that are more sustainable, for example clothing made from wood based products, instead of sticking to older products out of habit. Her advice to those wanting to lead the way in sustainability is:
 
• Be strong and passionate in your conviction to see change in your industry;
• Communicate your ambitions and actions well and widely;
• Have a good ground knowledge of your industry; and
• Be prepared to stand up to challenges that come your way.
 

Stena Recycling

Malin started working with Stena Recycling 9 years ago where she started out as a trainee. Now, 9 years later, she is head of Sustainable Business: a role that gives her the opportunity to both help customers become more aware about how they use and handle their resources throughout the value chain, before it turns into waste. One of her missions is to always emphasize the sustainable values of recycling and circular systems. Malin and her team strive to increase the awareness that decisions we take in design and production affects the recyclability. We have to be smart from the start.
 
Stena Recycling has about 70,000 customers, from small offices to big industrial manufacturers and municipalities. Today they co-operate with their customers to make sure that as much as possible of what they produce can be used circular and become recourses for Swedish and European industry  at the end of life. When an expert on recycling gets to participate in the entire production chain, from what materials you should use to how to actually produce it, it’s easier to take care of it after its functional life is over. .
 
In Malin Baltzar’s eyes it’s important to think about the sustainability issue as something that has a lot of dimensions. Stena Recycling mission is to care for resources. Our resources are not infinite and by using more circulated resources the amount of CO2 released into the atmosphere from production of material is decreased. Circular economy is needed to prevent further heating of the planet.

Want to learn more about a circular economy? Check out the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which has released some great publications about circular economy models and tools.

Read more about circular economy