Speaking on day two of the Scottish Resources Conference, Dr Walter Stahel, one of the foremost supporters of the progression towards a circular economy, passionately demonstrated the significant benefits associated with a resource efficient approach to purchasing habits.
Stahel’s comments echoed the views voiced yesterday by Janez Potočnik (pictured) in calling for society to veer away from the current linear system, something that Stahel refers to as a “vulnerable structure”, and instead adopt a fully circular economy.
He added: “The linear system is a river and it is continually flowing; you cannot stop it. Within a circular economy, smaller loops are more profitable and resource efficient.”
Stahel was also keen to applaud the shift from waste to resources, referring to waste as “our inability to re-use or recycle goods at their perceived end of life. It is more a knowledge challenge than an environmental one.”
Stahel believes that current business models must adopt a new mentality in order to adapt to the changing manufacturing environment. He claims that in order for companies to implement circular economics in their daily operations, three key changes must be introduced:
- Businesses must change their processes
- Businesses must alter product design so that it becomes more environmentally friendly
- Businesses must change their return process so that it is more effective and efficient
He added: “We need to think in systems and not in products. We should make high risks visible to businesses and then they will be aware of issues and therefore avoid them.
Dr Walter Stahel – “Humans contribute to resource consumption whether they are working or idle, therefore we will waste both people and energy if workers are left idle. We should not tax labour; instead tax non-renewable fuels and unwanted goods”
Stahel’s speech was embedded with statistics designed to illustrate the numerous wasteful practices applied within a linear economy. He stated, for example, that in the EU approximately half of all books printed are never sold, also claiming that at least one third of all agricultural machinery manufactured is never sold.
Stahel added that, in his estimations, remanufacturing is a third cheaper than manufacturing, even when producing the same quality of product, also declaring that 800 million tonnes of carbon could be saved in the UK alone were it to switch to a circular economy.
Stahel also noted that, while a circular economy would require an increase in human labour, this would in fact use less energy and resources and will have the potential to create considerable social benefits, such as the possibility of giving tax breaks to those in employment.
He said: “Human labour is low carbon energy. Humans contribute to resource consumption whether they are working or idle, therefore we will waste both people and energy if workers are left idle. We should not tax labour; instead tax non-renewable fuels and unwanted goods.”