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Top Trends in Circular Economy

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By Chamber Press Office, 18 May 2023

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming a hot topic across various industries with a massive potential to eliminate pollution and waste, circulate materials and products, and regenerate nature.

NotCo is a Chilean food tech business specialising in plant-based alternatives to products across a range of categories. Their first product was mayonnaise, and they used AI to rapidly prototype different recipes. The algorithm can develop incredibly novel flavour combinations that a human may not come up with. The AI works to match the taste, smell, and look of the product as close to the original as possible.

AI can also assist in creating circular business models. For example, reducing food waste by automatically lowering the food price as it reaches its expiry date.

An in-depth understanding of how the circular economy works on different levels – manufacturing, collaborative platforms, cities – and AI solutions can help speed up the transition.

Built Environment

A sustainable built environment protects and enhances places, people, and the natural environment.

The built environment is a holistic approach to sustainable development and should be applied throughout the entire lifecycle of a building. This includes each stage, from sourcing materials to design, construction, operation, and the end of life.

Climate action can be accelerated through energy efficiency and eliminating carbon emissions throughout the lifecycle of all buildings. A sustainable built environment can also drive the clean energy transition as it supports the phase-out of fossil fuels and the move to a renewable energy-powered, highly efficient, all-electric grid.

In Ireland, the “Building a Zero Carbon Ireland: A Roadmap to decarbonise Ireland’s Built Environment across its Whole Life Cycle” report presents a set of recommendations to halve the sector emissions by 2030 and to decarbonise Ireland’s built environment by 2050. The roadmap was published by the Irish Green Building Council in 2023.

Bioeconomy

The Bioeconomy refers to using renewable biological resources from sea and land, such as forests, fish, crops, animals, and microorganisms, to create materials and produce food and energy. In essence, it creates value from renewable, natural resources but in an ecological manner.

For example, tire producer giant Goodyear replaces petroleum-based oils with soybean oils in their production, improving product quality and manufacturing efficiency and reducing energy consumption.

A wealth of information and case studies is available on the Knowledge Centre for Bioeconomy website hosted by EU Commission.

Upcycling

Upcycling is one of the hottest circular economy trends right now, particularly in fashion. It is a creative way to make an item or product that would otherwise be discarded and usable again. More businesses utilise the opportunity of turning waste into new products, which has economic and environmental benefits.

The Upcycle Movement in Ireland is a multi-award-winning community organisation that promotes the concept that “it is only waste if we waste its potential”. Their flagship project is collecting wetsuits that are no longer fit to use and turning them into various unique items, from bags to bracelets and even pictures, besides raising awareness about the circular economy.

The Rediscovery Centre is the National Centre for Circular Economy in Ireland and offers a great variety of learning opportunities in upcycling, refurbishing, and other areas focused on keeping materials in use for longer.

EU regulations shaping the future of industries and markets

The Circular Cities and Regions Initiative (CCRI) was launched and funded by the EU as part of the Circular Economy Action Plan and focused on implementing the circular economy across Europe’s regions and cities.

The European Commission also recently published proposals for the Critical Raw Materials Act (CRMA). This act seeks to secure affordable, diversified, and sustainable supplies of raw materials. The demand for critical raw materials is expected to increase drastically, with Europe heavily relying on imports.

The EU also adopted the new Circular Economy Action Plan (CEAP) in March 2020, which is one of the primary building blocks of the European Green Deal, Europe’s latest agenda for sustainable growth. The new action plan essentially targets how products are created, drives sustainable consumption, promotes circular economy processes, and ensures waste is prevented while resources used are kept in the EU economy for as long as possible.

One of the latest additions to these initiatives is the ‘Right to repair’ proposal of the Commission, published in March 2023, that aims to introduce new consumer rights for easy and attractive repairs.

Knowledge Hubs

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a charity leading the global conversation about the circular economy and providing immense knowledge in this field. The organisation concentrates on several areas, including biodiversity, climate, fashion, cities, food, plastics, and finance. Their circular economy thought-leading insight and analysis are publicly available, including publications, books, and reports. Most of their publications are open source and accessible to the public.


The Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative (CGRI) has released several global reports and specific editions focusing on countries and regions exploring their current circularity status.

The ultimate goal of the Initiative is to empower decision-makers in both government and business to coordinate action to accelerate the transition toward a circular economy and provide a global fact-base monitor that can help bridge the gap.

The latest 2023 report found that our global economy is only 7.2 per cent circular, which shows that despite the growing interest in the circular economy, the situation is getting worse.

Article by the Circular Economy in Action edition of the Profit with Purpose Magazine.

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