Emanuele Bompan (Circular Economy)

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INTERVIEW WITH Emanuele Bompan
(Environmental journalist and geographer, author of the book Che cosa è l’Economia Circolare – What is Circular Economy)

“CIRCULAR ECONOMY: A NECESSARY CHANGE, BUT GREATER COURAGE IS REQUESTED TO ALL"

Circular Economy: more and more often we hear the expression "Circular Economy," and it is also used more and more frequently by politicians in their speeches. But still we know very little about the model and, above all, we still do not show enough courage to abandon the "old" model of Linear Economy (which is proving to be failing in the long term) and embrace the "new" model of Circular Economy (which has, if well implemented, great potential to survive in the long term). Once again the human being has to face his deepest and oldest fear! It has to face its unconscious fear of the "new!" That is why Emanuele Bompan, journalist, among the leading experts in Italy on the theme of Circular Economy, has sent us this message: Courage! In the young, in the educational system and in politics. Here Emanuele’s final message:

"To the young: do not be afraid… do not be afraid of being the leaders who ride these new models of doing business and economy. Be innovative and dynamic. Fully grasp this transformation!

To politicians: basic knowledge on economic and legal aspects is not enough! Be wise and educate yourself on sustainability and on this important aspect of sustainability: circular economy."

What is Circular Economy? What are its 3 basic principles? Who are the actors involved? What’s the situation Italy and abroad? And what are the factors necessary for its development? Emanuele Bompan answered to these and other questions.

http://www.emanuelebompan.it/ 

 

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INTERVIEW - (September 2018)
This interview was made in July 2018 and published in September 2018 on www.lteconomy.org  
Subject: Circular Economy, its limits and potential in Italy and in the world
 
By Dario Ruggiero, Founder of Long Term Economy 
 
 

Highlights 

  • What we need then? A change of mentality towards a new model: the resources we take from the planet must become part of a circular process where it’s difficult to quit, just like it happens in nature.
  • Circular Economy is not just recycling (this is just the 1st principle of Circular Economy)… it encompasses life-lengthening of products (2nd principle), and (we come to the 3rd principle) maximizing the common good (Sharing Economy).
  • Three actors (essentially): 1) designers (he focus shifts from the 'shape' of the products to its capacity of remaining in a circular system); 2) industrials, 3) local institutions. Consumers? They will play a transversal role, recognising and giving value to the system.
  • Many people think that in Italy we are stuck... It's not like that! Italy possesses all the basic factors to innovate towards Circular Economy: great design, an enviable craftsmanship and a strong entrepreneurial base. We must take advantage of that… And the institutions? They are starting to take the topic seriously into consideration. But not enough… More audacity is needed!
  • Much of the work done by humans today, in the future will be managed by robots and Artificial Intelligence: that means less job. People will have a choice: 1) living on a basic income and cultivating their passions or 2) increasing their income by working in those sectors where the human component will still be high.
  • Sectors involved? Mainly: packaging, fashion, automotive and construction. But also bioeconomy, especially in North Europe, is evolving by using organic material in a circular perspective.
  • Politicians in Italy are looking with interest at the issue, a bit from all parties (center-right, PD, M5S). The academic world can do more... the first masters on the topic are emerging and surely others will emerge. But it is still early to talk about the mass diffusion of the concept.
  • In other words, water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity, object of contention. In the book, ‘Water grabbing,’ we talk about the grabbing of water resources.

 

"We all need a change of mentality towards a new model:
 
the resources we take from the planet must become part of a circular process where it’s difficult to quit,
 
just like it happens in nature ..."
 
 
1. Question: Dear Emanuele, thank you for being with us. You are a great author on the subject of Circular Economy, the new frontier for economy in the 21st century. Could you tell us what are the mechanisms behind the transition from a linear economy to a circular one?
 
Well, first please think of one of your goods (a suit, a car, a PC, your house etc ...). Now imagine the process that generated it and what will happen to it: 1) we have literally "extracted" resources (organic or inorganic) from the planet; 2) then we transform it into a finished product; 3) we use the product; 4) the product becomes a waste. This is Linear Economy: there is matter that enters the process and matter that comes out of it.
 
Now you will ask yourself: what’s the problem?... The problem is we extract "finite" resources from Earth and turn them into matters no longer useful to it (waste/pollution). This process (that has characterized our society for the past 150 years) has been damaging our planet, depleting its resources, causing climate change, and polluting it.
 
What will happen if consumption and population continue to grow? This process, already unsustainable, will become more and more unsustainable! What we need then? A change of mentality towards a new model: the resources we take from the planet must become part of a circular process where it’s difficult to quit, just like it happens in nature... the materials that make the product become a source of nourishment of the planet (in the case of organic resources) or remain within production cycles (in the case of inorganic resources).
 
 
Circular Economy is not just recycling!
 
 
Now let's go on with the definition. Someone will say: well, Circular Economy is just recycling... No, it’s not! Recycling represents just Circular Economy’s 1st principle (if done well it is still an important part...). But Circular Economy goes further… It includes life-lengthening of products (2nd principle), which reduces additional energy and materials thus reducing the use of energy and additional materials needed in the phases of recycling. Finally, (and with this, we come to the 3rd principle), we should maximize the common value. This means promoting sharing products (Sharing Economy). These principles can be used in all economic sectors, from agriculture, to textiles, to automotive, to packaging, to building (designing houses so that they are easily disassembled).
 
Finally, but not last, Circular Economy must be designed so that not to bring economic losses to firms (that is, economic sustainability of Circular Economy).
 
 
2. Question: What are the main actors involved in the process which will bring us to a Circular Economy-based society?
 
Three actors (essentially): 1) Designers, who have the role of rethinking the product in a circular economy perspective (the focus shifts from the 'shape' of the products to its capacity of remaining in a circular system - extension of life, recyclability). 2) Industrials, who should gradually transform their activities from linear to circular. 3) Local administrators who should create the suitable infrastructure and promote this type of economy.
 
And what about consumers?
 
Consumers play a transversal role by encouraging the three actors mentioned above to undertake this type of path. Their task? Inform and inform themselves!
 
 
Circular Economy 9 particles
 
Source: Emanuele Bompan - Che cosa è l’Economia Circolare
 
 
"Products will have higher intrinsic costs and include more and more premium services: the future is in ‘the added services,’
 
in ‘intellectual innovation...’ This is the sector where companies can compensate
 
for the reduction in sales due to life-extension and sharing economy"
 
 
3. Question: Let’s now face the theme of economic sustainability... In a model where companies sell fewer products (because they remain more in the economic cycle - 2nd principle - and many of them are shared - 3rd principle), where can businesses look for new income?
 
Products will have higher intrinsic costs and include more and more premium services: the future is in ‘the added services,’ in ‘intellectual innovation...’, in the application of a correct tax regime (including lower VAT for circular products). This is the sector where companies can compensate for the reduction in sales due to life-extension and sharing economy. Let’s think about a drill… Now each of us buy it and use it…. In future, we could share a condominium security box, and create the figure of the condominium repairer trained and managed by the same company: the company will sell not only the drill but also services! We will be able to do more things without necessarily possessing the needed objects. We may share a bricoleur equipment, with a paid training course perhaps. We save money on goods and spend it on services. There are many examples. Businesses must see this opportunity.
 
 
Circular Economy 4 business models
Source: Emanuele Bompan - Che cosa è l’Economia Circolare
 
 
4. Question: To date, the concept of Circular Economy has also got the attention of mass-media  and the EU is promoting it (see the EU Action Plan for the Circular Economy)... However, progress towards this model still seems rather slow. What are its main obstacles?
 
The main obstacle? The narrow view about Circular Economy which associates it just with recycling. We need a broader vision, a vision which encompasses all the three principles of Circular Economy and which leads to sustainability in economic, environmental and social terms. We need courage and boldness to propose and implement a new way of living, that overcomes our mental limits.
 
And in Italy?
 
Many people think that in Italy we are stuck... It's not like that! Italy possesses all the basic factors to innovate towards Circular Economy: great design, an enviable craftsmanship and a strong entrepreneurial base. We must take advantage of that… And the institutions? They are starting to take the topic seriously into consideration. But not enough…  More audacity is needed!
 
 
"Much of the work done by humans today, in the future will be managed by robots and Artificial Intelligence:
 
that means less job. People will have a choice: 1) living on a basic income and cultivating their passions or
 
2) increasing their income by working in those sectors where the human component will still be high... "
 
 
5. Question: Let’s come to the effects on social relations. Today almost everything we do depends on economic interest and many of the activities we do get remuneration. Will that change with the progress of Circular Economy?
 
Let’s think for a moment... You have made a very important observation… Many actions today are driven by economic interest. Can we think of a world without money and economic returns? It’s difficult, at least in the near term… It’s difficult to escape money and finance… Probably we gradually will be free from capital and money at least for basic needs, but it will take time.
 
What we see today is a big problem of imbalances, we call it economic inequality. 1% of the population is extra-rich, while the other 7 billion people find it hard to live. We must struggle against this. The economy of the future, the 21st century economy must be free of this inequality. It must be a fair one! Will the universal income do this work? This is what several important and influencing people in business (Elon Musk) and in science (proposed by Stephen Hawking and supported by Tim Berners-Lee) say. One thing is certain: much of the work done by humans today, in the future will be managed by robots and Artificial Intelligence: that means less job. People will have a choice: 1) living on a basic income and cultivating their passions or 2) increasing their income by working in those sectors where the human component will still be high (as a designer or programmer for example).
 
 
6. Question: What sectors Circular Economy is affecting more?
 
Almost all sectors! In the international field, we see much progress in packaging, fashion, automotive and construction. But also bioeconomy is evolving by using organic material in a circular perspective.
 
 
"Politicians, designers, training centres,
 
These are all factors that will determine the success or the failure of Circular Economy."
 
 
7. Question: In which countries is the model of Circular Economy becoming more widespread?
 
Finland, Norway, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden and China. Then Italy, Germany, France and the rest of Europe. Sweden, Finland and Norway are very strong in the sector of Bioeconomy, in the wood industry. Non-European countries are also encouraged to follow this path.
 
What are the factors leading a country to be Circular Economy-friendly one?
 
Let’s take some examples. Finland and the Netherlands have made Circular Economy a strategic priority. Politicians, designers, training centres… These are all factors that determines the success or the failure of a circular economy approach.
 
And in Italy? What’s the situation like?
 
Italy has a strategic plan for Circular Economy made by the Ministry of Economic Development and the Ministry of the Environment of the past government, but it is waiting for implementation. An excellent work in this topic has been made by the Italian rapporteur of the Package on Circular Economy, Simona Bonafè. Even the financial world is starting to take the topic seriously into consideration... Intesa Sanpaolo, for example, has created a special centre, which is studying the most suitable products for Circular Economy (Innovation Center for Circular Economy). Much work in Italy has been done locally, with the European life projects for the transition to Circular Economy.
 
 
8. Question: In which part of the population you find much interest in this model (academic, young entrepreneurs, big enterprises, politicians, normal people etc...)?
I see a lot of interest in the world of design (academic and professional), in the chemical industry and in the waste industry. Politicians in Italy are looking with interest at the issue, a bit from all parties (center-right, PD, M5S). The academic world can do more... the first masters on the topic are emerging and surely others will emerge. But it is still early to talk about the mass diffusion of the concept....
 
 
"Water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity, object of contention."
 
 
9. Question: Not only Circular Economy, you have also written a book on water: "Water grabbing." What do you say in this book?
 
You know, water is the most important element in life. What happens if it becomes less available? It can become object of contention. And that is what’s happening. This is the reason we have decided to write a book on this subject. Let’s think of today’s scenario: the demand for water is growing (growing population and greater access to meat, a food that needs a lot of water in his process)... On the other hand, the supply of water is shrinking: Climate Change and the pollution of groundwater and rivers are reducing the availability of good water. In other words, water is becoming an increasingly precious commodity, object of contention. In this book, we talk about the grabbing of water resources: privatization, big infrastructures, the impact of Climate Change, mismanagement of water resources. We outline our policies, what should be done at an international, national and local level to prevent economic crises, water crises and that conflicts for this resource will emerge.
 
 
 
 
10. Question: The World after Paris. That is the title of another your book. How do you see the world after Paris?
 
Thank you for your question. The Paris Agreement… Many of us ask ourselves: has anything changed after this agreement? Will anything change? This nook is not just a result of my exclusive analysis. It is the result of the contribution by many writers on environmental matter. Signed in 2015, the Paris agreement has seen the participation of almost all the countries of the world (190) and has given impetus to a series of economic and political initiatives aimed at 1) mitigating the effects of Climate Change (decarbonising the world, cutting emissions), and 2) adapting to the effects already underway.
 
It is a somewhat controversial agreement. It could have been better, much more binding, and could have involved civil society. At any rate, it is a historic agreement: it involves many countries and represents an important basis for working, promoting clean energy, adaptation processes and that in some way is bearing its fruit. Its real effectiveness? Who know? The situation will get clearer in 2020, in 2030 and later when the results obtained will be checked. My wish is that Italy does its own part. Previous governments have not been enough audacious in terms of decarbonisation policies. I hope next governments will put Circular Economy and Climate Change at the centre of their policies.
 
 
"Information and courage! do not be afraid… do not be afraid of being the leaders who ride
 
these new models of doing business and economy. Be innovative and dynamic. Fully grasp this transformation!"
 
 
11. Question: What’s your advice to the young? And, above all, to current and future Italian and other countries politicians?
 
Information and courage! Do not be afraid… do not be afraid of being the leaders who ride these new models of doing business and economy. Be innovative and dynamic. Fully grasp this transformation!
 
To politicians? Basic knowledge on economic and legal aspects is not enough! Be wise and educate yourself on sustainability and on this important aspect of sustainability: circular economy.
 
"We all need a change of mentality towards a new model:
 
the resources we take from the planet must become part of a circular process where it’s difficult to quit,
 
just like it happens in nature ..."
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
************************
 
 
 
Subscribe to Long Term Economy Blog  to discover and be updated on all the articles and news about sustainability and Long Term Economy made by our bloggers.
 
Subscribe Long Term Economy newsletter and/or become part of the Long Term Economy movement.

 

 

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