Amsterdam | 2020, 17 - 19 November

The virtuous circle

  • 15 November 2016
  • Kim Hollamby
  • Video Construction and Material Sustainability
 

“We need to move our thinking from a linear economy where we focus on cradle-to-grave, to a circular economy where we create products that are designed to work from cradle-to-cradle.” So explained renowned architect Steven Beckers, President of the Implementation Centre for Circular Economy in Brussels, during his METSTRADE InnovationLAB interview with IBI’s Ed Slack, today.

 

“Raw materials should not be consumable. They should be a ‘technical nutrient’ that can be used again and again,” Steven said. “Boat and marine equipment manufacturers can measure everything using 3D modelling, including the quantity and type of material used and from that, you can understand its value.

“You should plan right from the start to recover the raw materials at the end of the boat’s useful life. Then it will not have a negative value when you have finished with it because you won’t be paying anyone for disposal.

“The supply of the boat and its significant components should also be a service, rather than a purchase. If you rent the boat and its equipment, then your suppliers become your partners. To take an example, you could pay annually for the benefits a winch provides on your boat, rather than buying the item.

“We’ve seen a move towards this approach with buildings for some time now. For example you can lease the carpets from a supplier and spread the cost over several years. If you look at the total cost at the end, it’s cheaper and the product is better. The manufacturer has an interest to provide a much better quality product as well as a solution to deal with what happens when it is no longer needed.

“It’s important to understand the benefits of a circular economy are not just green and financial, but about making better products too.”

Steven also believes that mind-sets have to change from damage limitation to positive benefits. “We have to move from eco-efficiency, which is all about being less bad – an example of this is improving fuel efficiency. The goal is eco-effectiveness, where your actions add a positive benefit to the environment.”

Answering Ed’s question about how the marine industry could start to embrace cradle-to-cradle practices, Steven replied: “It’s very complex if you try and get it all done in one go. So you need to set a road map of measurable objectives. Perhaps 50 per cent recyclable in five years, then no toxic materials at all in 10 years, ensuring your supply chain understands your requirements and follows suit.

“Boats have to be built for disassembly. The marine industry could easily shift to this method.

“New component production developments can help too. The METSTRADE Breakfast Briefing last year looked at 3D printing technology and that opens opportunities. If you choose good material that is not toxic, there is no problem melting it down and starting again.

“Maersk Line has introduced container ships with each of the different types of steel used in construction labelled with a bar code so that they can be recycled when the ship is decommissioned. This demonstrates how you need to think about the need to separate raw materials at the end of a product’s life.

“As an architect I like that the marine industry is innovative but it is frustrating that it is behind in inventing materials that can be up-cycled. The good news though is that all industries have an interest in working together – so the boating sector can look beyond its own areas of expertise for solutions.

“I’ve seen this collaborative approach work, for example, where a curtain manufacturer was able to employ a biological fire proofing agent originally developed for a television manufacturer. There is no progress in the circular economy if you don’t have collaboration.”

Steven also emphasised that this approach to recycling should bring fresh impetus for manufacturers that are located closer to a product’s use. “It’s too expensive to ship recycled materials half-way around the world to use them again, so the circular economy will also emphasise the need to develop skills in the local economy.”

To tab into the whole story, watch the video below:

 

Earlier that day, Steven adressed the topic of ‘Circular Economy: Towards a positive impact on the recreational marine industry’ during the traditional Breakfast Briefing, organized in collaboration with ICOMIA.

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