Thursday, December 22, 2022

Going In A Circle For A Good Cause

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Sustainability, Pollution, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Global Climate Change, Science & Society

--Humans are in this together. The problems we face are "transnational, transgenerational and transideological. So are all conceivable solutions. To escape these traps requires a perspective that embraces the peoples of the planet and all the generations yet to come."--Carl Sagan, Astronomer

Ed Hessler

A Nature editorial calls attention to our profligate use of  natural resources with some useful everyday examples. "Producing a laptop computer that weighs a few kilograms takes around one tonne* of raw metal, plastic and silicon. Between 2000 and 2015, global clothing production doubled, but the number of times the average garment was worn before being discarded decreased by 36%. The body of a modern car contains more than a dozen steel and aluminium alloys, putting up huge barriers to recycling it."

If we are to stop this, at least lower its impact on resources and the environment, the editors suggest a solution: change from a linear economy to a circular economy. In such an economy, "waste" is treated as a resource because materials are recycled which reduces waste - there will always be waste - as much as possible.

As the editors put it, though, to create such an economy means that we most do "a lot." They provide some examples of national and sector initiatives that "are ahead of the game."

"China has been adopting circular-economy policies since the late 2000s. Its latest iteration of a circular-economy action plan, valid until 2025, sets ambitious targets for using scrap steel and construction waste, among other refuse. Its ban on importing plastic and other waste, implemented in 2018, has forced countries to rethink their own waste strategies.

"The European Union announced a circular-economy action plan in 2020, and is looking towards implementing policies around substantiating sustainability claims by business, controlling packaging and incentivizing the use of recycled materials in manufacturing. Chile’s road map for a circular economy by 2040 involves targets for waste reduction and the creation of more than 100,000 jobs.

"And there are smaller-scale, sector-specific initiatives. Since 2009, Japan has required manufacturers to collect and recycle the large home appliances that they make, although the costs are mostly borne by consumers. In Kawasaki, reusing industrial and municipal waste to make cement has caused greenhouse-gas emissions to fall by about 15% since 2009, saving 272,000 tonnes** of material each year."

The key will be a rethink and redo of how we think about resources and how "we build (and/or modify) our economic systems around them." (added)

One of the advantages of editorials is that they are short reads and give us much to chew on. In addition they tend to point us to large issues. This editorial is definitely worth a read and includes links to previous articles on circular economic business models. Our future depends on it and other like-minded actions which we can adopt if we are to ameliorate the effects of global change.

* 1 tonne = 1000 kg = ~1.1 U.S. ton

** 272,000 tonnes = ~ 299,826 U.S. tons


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