Resource-efficient cities and industries

The concept of a circular economy has recently gained traction in Europe as a positive, solutions-based perspective for achieving economic development within increasing environmental constraints. Raw, processed and advanced materials, from primary and secondary sources, are the backbone of the economy. A radical shift is required from linear to circular thinking. End-of-life products must be considered as a resource for another cycle, while losses and stocks of unused materials must be minimised and valorised along the value chain. In addition, the interactions between materials must be considered to define the best circular solution from a systemic standpoint. Awareness of the benefits of closing material loops must be raised in society. The successful transition of a society to the circular economy at the global scale depends on the reliable and sustainable supply and management of raw materials.

READ THE LATEST ON THE TRANSITION FROM LINEAR TO CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Different type of actors, such as business, consumers, citizens, cities etc., are key in driving this process so this Lighthouse will consider society as a whole (business and cities) defining actions (strategic and operational) to support the transition from linear to Circular Society.

The United Nations estimates that by 2030, about 5 billion people will live in cities, and by 2050 two thirds of the global population live in urban areas (UN DESA, 2012). Cities and urban communities offer better opportunities – economic, education, entrepreneurial. They are places with concentration of food, people, technology, entertainment and community.

Urbanisation and its impacts is a major global challenge. Today cities account for 60 to 80% of energy consumption and 75% of carbon emissions while using 3% of the land. To ensure a sustainable future, ecological and societal challenges must be addressed simultaneously (Raworth, 2017). In this context, materials are also the enablers of sustainability and are the natural integrators, if used in a resource-efficient way.

In sustainable and modern smart cities, everything comprises of a complex interconnected system and – the connections being interactions among different contributors and challenges (food, water, energy, materials, waste, etc.); business, people, and government; the existing infrastructures, industries and systems and the future ones; digital and non-digital; local, regional and (inter-) national; rural and urban. These relationships are often highly complex, non-linear, and being technical, economical cultural and social/societal at the same time. Therefore, to quantify the resource efficiency and design of sustainable cities requires unique platforms that digitally link the various stakeholders.

The choices made by millions of consumers can support or hamper the circular societies, so this Lighthouse will also deal with the education and awareness activities focused in consumers to allow then to understand the concept of Circular Society as well as to show them the adequate patterns to ensure the transition.

The industry is also a key player regarding the transition process to Circular Society; each industry sector is different when it comes to resource use, waste generation and management. Resource efficiency ensuring the rational and efficient use of raw materials as well as the efficient industrial waste valorisation through industrial symbiosis approaches are key aspects to achieve circular industries.

Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse objectives

This Lighthouse program will demonstrate the raw materials sector as a major strength and central service provider for the transition to Circular Societies.

The main objective of this Lighthouse will be to support and boost the transition from Linear Societies to Circular ones through the support of innovative solutions to be implemented in cities and industries. These solutions will include:

  • new technologies
  • new educational approaches related to new skills required for this transition process
  • new educational and awareness approaches to get citizens/consumers participating and supporting this transition process
  • new methodologies to assess circularity
  • new methodologies to support the transition to Circular Cities
  • new business models
  • new circular products

The Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will also have clear strategic objectives aiming to achieve EIT RawMaterials being key stakeholder leading this transition process to Circular Societies together with other stakeholders as, for example, leading a Cross-KIC (Knowledge and Innovation Community) initiative for Resource Efficient Societies.

Raw Materials and Circular Societies contributions to key sectors

Through this Lighthouse, EIT RawMaterials will have a vehicle to promote inclusive and sustainable industrialisation and contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 9 United Nations (2015a): which states that by 2030, significantly raise industry’s share of employment and gross domestic product, and upgrade infrastructure and retrofit industries to make them sustainable, with increased resource-use efficiency and greater adoption of clean and environmentally sound technologies to industrial processes, in line with national circumstances. This Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will not only have a significant impact on SDG 9, but also clearly in SDG 11 “Sustainable Cities and Communities” and SDG 12 “Responsible Production and Consumption” with also impacts in other as SDG 13 “Climate Action”.

Raw Materials and Circular Societies approach and impact

The Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse will achieve their main objectives through the implementation of calls for projects from the operational perspective but also through the development and implementation of strategic actions aiming to get the EIT RawMaterials as one of the main European stakeholders contributing to the effective implementation of the transition from linear to circular societies.

Securing raw materials supply

Designing materials solutions

Closing materials loops

  • Securing raw materials supply: The Circular Societies Lighthouse will support this from the secondary perspective/Recycling and industrial waste valorisation)
  • Designing materials solutions: The Circular Societies Lighthouse will design solutions to address the whole life cycle in a systemic way, from raw materials supply to materials innovation, advanced materials, products, product-service systems, processes, design of products for circularity, new business models, new policy measures, new taxation approaches, and new education and awareness methodologies.
  • Closing material loops: The Circular Societies Lighthouse will define solutions to close the loop trough the resource-efficient of processing and keeping materials in the society as long as possible using new product design approaches for circularity, recycling, reuse, repairing, remanufacturing.

This Lighthouse will also engage with students (especially children and young people), consumers of final products and industrial sectors consumers of raw materials. The implementation of this Lighthouse will have clear and direct impacts on the Sustainable Development Goals as previously described but also it will contribute to the achievement of different European initiatives as the Circular Economy Action Plan, the Zero Waste Initiative or the Resource-efficient Europe as examples of some of the main initiatives.

Raw Materials and Circular Societies Lighthouse strategic actions are:

    • Initiate and strengthen collaboration with industrial associations (e.g., Sustainable Process Industry through Resource and Energy Efficiency (SPIRE), Factories of the Future (FoF) on the circular economy.
    • Initiate contacts with city associations, for example, ICLEI to define ways of collaboration; facilitate synergy workshop series.
    • Strengthen the existing collaboration with the European Commission (DG Grow, EASME, DG Environment, DG RTD, DG Regio, JRC) on Circular Societies.
    • Organise an impact assessment workshop bringing together projects from Horizon 2020 and EIT regarding Circular Societies.
    • Integrate existing and new databases on the circular economy in the RM InfoCenter.
    • Create a Cross-KIC initiative on Circular Societies-Resource Efficiency for a possible joint call.
    • Strengthen collaboration with other relevant European stakeholders, for example, the European Resource Efficiency Knowledge Centre (EREK).
    • Creation of an internal Task Force composed by representatives from all the internal groups (Education team, Business Development Managers, Innovation Hub Directors, Senior Advisors, Management) to support effective and efficient implementation of this Lighthouse.