Companies make circular economy happen

Investments in businesses in circular economy solutions is  the most important factor in the realization of circular economy in Finland consumers are expected to contribute also

Investments in circular economy solutions as part of companies social responsibility and requirement of those from their subcontractors and partners as well were considered the most important factor in the realization of circular economy in Finland. The result is based on an Internet survey made for the CloseLoop project stakeholders. The survey asked respondents to ponder, which sectors of society are areas of particular importance when we are moving towards the circular economy.

Following companies’ willingness to make the necessary investments, a good overall economic development was estimated to be the next most important factor. This will allow the investments in circular economy solutions. The development of an active start-up scene for circular economy solutions was seen most probable development trend in Finland. Some of these start-ups are expected to grow independently to the international markets, while some will be acquired by big corporations for their new business areas.

There are, of course, a lot of different technologies behind the realization of the circular economy vision.  These are related to collection and processing of materials, development of materials used in products, product design and production, product lifecycle management and cooperation between the companies involved, as well as, data processing – integrating all of these and including social media technologies.

The integration of value networks was seen as the most important technology area for achieving the circular economy target state. This means, for example, a seamless flow of product information between business and recycling value chains. The result is well in line with the significance of the investments made in circular economy solutions discussed above.

Other important technology areas included raw-material processing and material substitution technologies, such as the replacement of materials so that they were better recyclable or that their carbon footprint during their life cycle was reduced. These were also seen as technology areas whose development can provide significant business opportunities for Finnish companies. Other potential business areas included technologies for recyclates pre-processing, intelligent production, machine learning, machine vision, robotics, and similar technologies that advance or utilize artificial intelligence. Recyclates pre-processing includes, among other things, collection and sorting of waste material as technically and economically viable processing streams. Intelligent production includes, for example, automatic adaptation to and control over unexpected manufacturing situations, and in the future direct M2M communication between machines also.

The aforementioned technology areas were also those to which government policy measures were hoped to address. Such measures include, for example, investments in research and development and regulation. However, the most important technological area requiring governmental supervision was deemed to be recyclates collection. The advancement of the circular economy in Finland requires the development of recycling infrastructure, but also “educating” consumers in their consumption behaviours. For example, consumers should be ready for a more detailed sorting of waste, especially when it comes to a product with high value raw materials.

 

Mika Naumanen

VTT

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