Digitalisation accelerates the circular economy

When talking about the circular economy, the role of digitalisation is almost always mentioned. The deployment of digital solutions may reduce the use of resources and facilitate the implementation of circular economy systems. However, as yet not much research has been done on how digitalisation enables the transition to a circular economy in practice. The CloseLoop strategic research project of the Academy of Finland systematically assesses challenges associated with the development of new business models, and brainstorms new circular economy business models and concepts for Finnish companies. These concepts are developed and tested in collaboration with companies and stakeholders, including end-users and consumers.

Digitalisation may provide assistance for achieving three objectives of the circular economy. The digitalisation of the industrial sector increases resource efficiency, helps to close the loop of material cycles and contributes to keeping materials in use for a longer time. Intelligent solutions enable, for example, the reduction of energy consumption, optimisation of logistics chains and more efficient use of capacity. Digitalisation can be used to gain access to material-specific data and resource consumption, which enables the product life cycle to be optimised for circular economy solutions. Good examples of this include Resq Club and Lunchie, which offer restaurant food for consumers through a digital platform. They reduce food waste by providing an easy way to buy food that would otherwise go to waste.  eRENT  offers companies a platform for the digital sharing and tracking of machines and devices, making it possible to improve their usage rates.

Circular economy systems with interconnected cycles often contain large amounts of data. Digitalisation offers new ways to collect and use it in real time. This data can be put to use when decisions need to be made about the phases of the product’s life cycle, reuse of waste materials, logistical arrangements and the operators needed in the value network. For example,  Konecranes offers warehouse management as a service that includes remote monitoring and preventive equipment maintenance and advanced digitalisation, enabling the monitoring of the entire supply chain. The solution allows Konecranes customers to efficiently provide their suppliers with information on warehouse usage levels.

In the circular economy, the coordination of materials and information flows is of crucial importance. Information on the quantity and quality of products and the raw materials they contain must be collected, stored and used efficiently. It must be possible to do this in a reliable and transparent manner, for which such methods as block chain technology may provide a solution. Digital technologies enable data storage combined with materials and the use of waste as a resource.

Digitalisation comes with a lot of challenges

The key challenges of digitalisation are related to business models, data ownership, data sharing, data integration, collaboration and competence. Issues related to the availability and ownership of data are of crucial importance. There are also challenges related to the sharing of data between competitors, protection of privacy, the IPR rights and confidence building. Integration of the large amounts of data owned by various operators is also needed, because the management of data flows is also a big challenge.

Other important issues include the organisation of cooperation between different partners, the definition of joint processes, search for suitable partners and pooling of different areas of competence. The pooling of the competences in information and communication technology and sustainable development also has its own challenges. At the moment, many organizations lack sufficient competence related to the basic concepts of the circular economy and sustainable business models.

Hackathons, training and research projects promote cooperation across disciplines

Cooperation, networking, increased transparency and the provision of information are key methods for promoting digitalisation. Collaboration can be practiced by sharing expertise between organisations and pooling competences between different actors. The operators should come from different fields and include both small and large organisations. In training, the cooperation between schools and enterprises could be increased. Various competitions and hackathons could be increasingly used for cooperation purposes. Participation in research and development projects is also a good way of creating cooperation networks.

It is important to involve consumers or end-users in the planning and implementation of a service, because consumers themselves function as service providers in many services that use platforms. In such a case, getting a critical mass involved in the process from the outset is of paramount importance, and the service must offer a first-rate solution to consumer needs in terms of both attractiveness and usability. One example is Zadaa, which provides consumers with a mobile application that makes it easy to put used clothes up for sale and to find clothes that fit. Digital solutions make it possible to reach consumers and end users in a more efficient way than before. It is important to note that instead of the earlier one-way communication, the solutions needed today must allow end-users to give feedback on products and services.

Read more: www.closeloop.fi

 

Maria Antikainen VTT

 

Maria Antikainen
Principal Scientist
maria.antikainen(a)vtt.fi
@MariaAntikainen

 

Teuvo Uusitalo VTT

 

Teuvo Uusitalo
Senior Scientist, VTT
teuvo.uusitalo(a)vtt.fi
@TeuvoU

 

 

Kiertotalous_digitalisaatio

Under the theme “Digitalisation as enabler of the circular economy”, we organized a workshop at the From Waste to Valuables event held at the Hotel Torni of Tampere on 23 November 2017. It was attended by 62 representatives of business and research organisations. The workshop presented three innovative examples in which digitalisation forms an essential part of the operations: Uusioaines Oy, Hiedanranta and Resq Club. We discussed in small groups how digitalisation contributes to the circular economy, what challenges this entails and how they can be solved

Circular economy of textiles – Easy, and yet so difficult

The apparel industry has experienced radical transformations throughout the years. Thirty years ago trends and consumer demand were forecast long before consumers purchased the garments, and the production was planned and sized accordingly [1]. In the late 1980s, the industry developed a global infrastructure that emphasized quick response to consumer demand through reduced lead times and low costs. Fast fashion was born.

During the last 20 years, the price of clothing has fallen and the number of imported pieces of clothing has increased. In the US, apparel prices were on average 10% lower in 2005 than in 1998 [4]. Globally since the year 2000, the amount of clothing sold has doubled, and the number of times a garment is worn has decreased by 36% [5]. From 1975, the global production of textile fibers has increased by a staggering 280%. This is a 4-fold increase. The raw materials, such as cotton, are becoming scarce or unsustainable to produce.

We live in an era of ‘excessive accumulation’ of clothing [4]. As the closet space is finite, some of that excess has to be discarded. In Finland, people and organizations discard approximately 72 million kilograms of textile waste annually. This is 13 kg per citizen [2].

There is a problem to be solved. The solution is a circular economy of textiles.

graafi_tekstile

Circular economy model of textiles [2].

In the Relooping Fashion project, a model was conceptualized based on the operations that a circular business ecosystem for textiles would include. The inner circle is about reviving old apparel maintenance skills and practices: repairing and reusing clothes and textiles. However, it is unclear if this truly decreases the consumption of virgin clothing and textiles.

If reuse of clothing is not possible, its material can be reused

The outer circles of the model include all the industrial processes and logistics required to recycle textile materials, either chemically or mechanically, to textile yarn, fabric and again to clothes. The overall goal is to maintain the value of materials as high as possible, with minimum environmental impact. VTT has innovated new processes through which textiles can be produced from wood or discarded cotton clothing.

As the circular textile economy model suggests, the way forward is, in theory, relatively straight. We know what the elements are. We have to create value from waste, emphasize functionality over ownership, and create sufficiency-based resource use [2].

Are these shifts already happening? Yes they are.

VTT is coordinating the Telaketju project, which aims to create a comprehensive collection, sorting and refining system for end-of-life textiles in Finland. There is considerable drive and enthusiasm in the group. Similar circular economy initiatives are being set up in most countries.

Is the shift happening fast and profoundly enough?

Is it possible to create a circular economy within the current linear economy? These are much more complicated questions.

The world has streamlined its linear production systems for decades. These processes rely on virgin raw materials. This is why it is important to intensively develop technologies to utilize recycled materials. However, technologies as such are not enough. Reorganization should happen at mental, structural and economic levels.

One of the main challenges is that value is not evenly divided in the current value chains, as discussed in [2]. Farmers and manufacturers bear the environmental and social costs in the form of toxic chemicals, inhuman working conditions, and lack of water, while the brand owners and consumers reap the profits and cheap garments.

Consumer demand is the momentum for change

The current idea is that consumers should start demanding that fashion brands take responsibility, and of course they should. Alongside consumer demand, there is also a large number of political and legislative tools, such as raising recycling targets, stringent waste legislation, labeling schemes on products, rules for public procurement and so on, which can be used to turn the ship.

However, all the above are partial solutions emerging from the current state of affairs. I believe that there should be a mechanism throughout the economy that would favor circularity over linear throughput. This in-bedded mechanism would drive the circular economy in the right direction. This is the place where we need profound innovation, as there are no working solutions yet.

Nonetheless, we have a firm intention, which is the first step of any transformation. The actions will follow.

 

paunonen
Sara Paunonen
Senior Scientist
sara.paunonen(a)vtt.fi

 

Literature:
[1] Bhardwaj, V. & Fairhurst, A., 2010, Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 20(1).
[2] Fontell and Heikkilä, 2017, Model for Circular Business Ecosystem for Textiles, VTT Technology 313.
[3] Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/263154/worldwide-production-volume-of-textile-fibers-since-1975/
[4] Schor, J.B, 2005, Prices and quantities: Unsustainable consumption and the global economy, Ecological Economics, 55(3), 309-320.
[5] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, pp, 150.

Tekstiilien kiertotalous – Helppoa vai vaikeaa?

Tekstiiliteollisuus muuttunut paljon vuosikymmenien varrella. Kolmekymmentä vuotta sitten tuotannonsuunnittelu ja mitoitus perustui trendeihin ja kulutuskysyntään, jotka ennakoitiin kauan ennen kuin kuluttajat lopulta ostivat vaatteita [1]. 1980-luvun lopulla teollisuus kehitti maailmanlaajuisen infrastruktuurin, jolla tavoiteltiin nopeaa reagointia kuluttajien kysyntään lyhyiden toimitusaikojen ja alhaisten kustannusten kautta. Pikamuoti (fast fashion) syntyi.

Viimeisten 20 vuoden aikana vaatteiden hinta on laskenut ja tuontivaatteiden määrä lisääntynyt. Yhdysvalloissa vaatteiden hinnat olivat vuonna 2005 keskimäärin 10 prosenttia pienemmät kuin vuonna 1998 [4]. Maailmanlaajuisesti vuodesta 2000 lähtien myytyjen vaatteiden määrä on kaksinkertaistunut, ja vaatteen käyttökertojen määrä on vähentynyt 36 prosenttia [5]. Vuodesta 1975 tekstiilikuitujen maailmanlaajuinen tuotanto on kasvanut huikealla 280 prosentilla. Lisäys on nelinkertainen. Samalla luonnonkuitujen, kuten puuvillan, tuotanto ei enää riitä täyttämään kysyntää.

Elämme vaatteiden “liiallisen kertymisen” aikakautta [4]. Kun kerran kaappitila on äärellinen, osa ylimäärästä on hävitettävä. Suomessa ihmiset ja organisaatiot tuottavat noin 72 miljoonaa kiloa poistotekstiiliä vuosittain. Tämä on 13 kiloa jokaista suomalaista kohden [2].

Käsissämme on ongelma, joka pitää ratkaista. Tämä ratkaisu on tekstiilien kiertotalous.
graafi_tekstile

 

Tekstiilien kiertotalous -projektissa luotiin malli siitä, mitä toimintoja ja vaiheita toimiva tekstiilien kiertotalous kattaisi. Sisäkehällä on kyse vanhojen kunnon vaatehuoltotaitojen elvyttämisestä, eli vaatteiden ja tekstiilien korjauksesta ja uudelleenkäytöstä. On kuitenkin epävarmaa, vähentääkö tämä todella tekstiilituotteiden kulutusta.

Jos vaatteiden uudelleenkäyttö ei ole mahdollista, niiden materiaali voidaan käyttää uudelleen

Mallin ulkokehä sisältää kaikki ne teolliset prosessit ja logistiikan, jolla tekstiiliaines kierrätetään joko kemiallisesti tai mekaanisesti tekstiililangaksi, kankaaksi ja jälleen vaatteeksi. Tavoitteena on ylläpitää materiaalien arvo niin korkealla kuin mahdollista ja ympäristövaikutukset niin pieninä kuin mahdollista. VTT on kehittänyt teknologioita, joilla tekstiiliä voidaan tuottaa puusta tai käytöstä poistetuista puuvillatekstiileistä.

Tekstiilien kiertotalousmalli viitoittaa suunnan, joka on teoriassa suhteellisen selvä. Tiedämme, mitä elementtejä tarvitaan. Meidän on luotava arvoa jätteestä, korostettava omistamisen sijaan käyttöarvoa ja tavoiteltava tehokkuuden sijaan käyttöä, joka takaa resurssien riittävyyden [2].

Ovatko nämä muutokset jo tapahtumassa? Kyllä ne ovat.

VTT koordinoi Telaketju-hanketta, jonka tavoitteena on edistää poistotekstiilien keräys-, lajittelu- ja jalostusverkoston kehittymistä Suomessa. Ryhmässä on huomattavan innostunut ilmapiiri. Useimmissa maissa on meneillään vastaavanlaisia kiertotaloushankkeita.

Onko siirtyminen tapahtumassa riittävän nopeasti?

Onko mahdollista siirtyä kiertotalouteen nykyisen lineaarisen talouden lähtökohdista? Nämä ovat paljon monimutkaisempia kysymyksiä.

Lineaarisia tuotantojärjestelmiä on hiottu vuosikymmenien ajan. Nämä prosessit perustuvat neitseellisten raaka-aineiden hyödyntämiseen. Tämän vuoksi on varsin tärkeää kehittää teknologioita nimenomaan kierrätettyjen materiaalien hyödyntämiseen raaka-aineena. Teknologiat eivät kuitenkaan sellaisinaan riitä. Muutosta tulee tapahtua niin henkisellä, rakenteellisella kuin taloudellisellakin tasolla.

Yksi isoimmista haasteista on se, että kustannukset ja hyödyt eivät ole tasaisesti jakautuneet nykyisissä arvoketjuissa ja -verkostoissa [2]. Viljelijät ja valmistajat kärsivät myrkyllisten kemikaalien, epäinhimillisten työolojen ja veden puutteen aiheuttamista haitoista, kun taas brändin omistajat ja kuluttajat hyötyvät voitoista ja halvoista vaatteista.

Kuluttajat vauhdittavat muutosta

Vallalla olevan ajattelun mukaan kuluttajien on vaadittava yrityksiltä ja tuotteilta vastuullisuutta, ja ohjattava markkinoita valinnoillaan. Ja näin tietysti on. Kuluttajien kysynnän lisäksi on olemassa lukuisia poliittisia ja lainsäädännöllisiä välineitä tilanteen muuttamiseksi, kuten kierrätystavoitteiden nostaminen, jätehuollon vaatimukset, tuotteiden merkintäjärjestelmät, julkisten hankintojen säädökset ja niin edelleen.

Kaikki edellä mainitut ovat kuitenkin osittaisia, nykytilasta käsin luotuja ratkaisuja. Uskon, että koko taloudessa pitäisi olla mekanismi, joka suosisi kiertotaloutta lineaarisen tuotannon ja talouden kustannuksella. Tämä sisään valettu mekanismi ajaisi kiertotaloutta moottorin tavoin oikeaan suuntaan, esimerkiksi arvon tasaisempaan jakautumiseen ja resurssien riittävyyteen. Tässä kohdin tarvitsemme innovaatiota, koska toimivaa moottoria ei vielä ole.

Olemme kuitenkin päättäneet ryhtyä toimeen, mikä on kaikkien muutosten ensimmäinen vaihe. Tarkoituksenmukaiset toimenpiteet kyllä seuraavat.

paunonen
Sara Paunonen
Senior Scientist
sara.paunonen(a)vtt.fi

 

Viitteet:
[1] Bhardwaj, V. & Fairhurst, A., 2010, Fast fashion: response to changes in the fashion industry. The International Review of Retail, Distribution and Consumer Research, 20(1).
[2] Fontell and Heikkilä, 2017, Model for Circular Business Ecosystem for Textiles, VTT Technology 313.
[3] Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/263154/worldwide-production-volume-of-textile-fibers-since-1975/
[4] Schor, J.B, 2005, Prices and quantities: Unsustainable consumption and the global economy, Ecological Economics, 55(3), 309-320.
[5] Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017, A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, pp, 150.

Finnish companies make a shift to the circular economy with innovative business models

The basic idea of sustainable circular economy business models is to produce not only economic value, but also environmental and social value. In the circular economy, they key objective is to keep the value of materials and products high for as long as possible. To be able to make a shift to the circular economy, it is essential to design the products in a more intelligent way by increasing their service life and changing their role in the system.

A shift from product-focused activities towards production of services supports the transition. When the product manufacturer maintains the ownership of a product, this will, at the same time, increase the motivation to lengthen the service life of products, and make the repair, remanufacturing and increasingly efficient use of resources more important than before.

In the CloseLoop project of the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland, challenges associated with the development of new business models are systematically assessed, and new circular economy business models and concepts are brainstormed for Finnish companies. These concepts are developed and tested in collaboration with companies and stakeholders, including end-users and consumers.

Towards the circular economy with collaborative intelligent approaches

Digitalisation and the Internet of Things (IoT) offer new opportunities for the development and implementation of circular economy business models. They enable the gathering of information on products in a new way. This provides the manufacturer with increased knowledge on how the product is being used, when the product needs maintenance, and when the product is nearing the end of its service life. This makes it possible to develop new services and optimise the value of the product and its materials. On the other hand, this also increases the complexity of products and thus brings challenges to the preservation of the value of materials and components.

An individual company cannot solve the challenges related to such business operations. What is needed is comprehensive understanding of the viewpoints and needs of various parties. One must also examine what kind of value the business operations create for various stakeholders and what kind of opportunities it offers for creating added value. It is also important to consider what kind of value the new business activities may reduce from different stakeholders. On the basis of such examination, the parties involved can develop a model for the optimisation of common value creation.

The question of value can also be examined at many different levels, taking into account such aspects as economic, social and environmental value. When considering the value received by the end customer, it is also essential to understand the value as a ratio between sacrifices and benefits. The circular economy creates demand for new services and, consequently, for new operators. Such services include collection of products and logistics, the secondary markets of products and platforms that enable longer service life or higher utilisation rate for products.

Concrete business cases of the circular economy

What are business activities conducted in line with the principles of the circular economy like then? For example, business strategies in line with the circular economy can be classified as follows [i]:

Circular economy business strategies

Where can one get tips for business activities in line with the principles of the sustainable and circular economy?

In May 2017, the British Standards Institute published the standard BS 8001:2017 [ii], a new standard on the circular economy. It offers guidelines for different types of organizations on how to implement the principles of circular economy in their operations. The standard consists of two parts:

  1. Information on what the circular economy is all about and why it is advisable to transfer to the circular economy and a more sustainable operating model than before.
  2. Guidelines on how to implement operations in accordance with the principles of the circular economy. This is the key part of the standard, describing the principles of the circular economy, a flexible implementation model and guidelines supporting the implementation.

The collection of circular economy business cases that may inspire Finnish operators have been collected on the Sitra website. The aim is to gather 100 examples of Finnish forerunner companies engaged in the circular economy on this site by the end of 2017. The examples have been divided in accordance with the five circular economy business models.

Concrete international business cases can also be found on the website http://www.plan-c.eu/bmix/. It brings together descriptions of sustainable business models of various types and examples on how such business models have been put to practice. The site presents eight ‘archetypes’ of sustainable business models and 100 real life business cases related to them.

New tools needed for the development of business activities

In the circular economy, business activities are more networked and systemic than before. Therefore, new tools are needed for both innovation and the development of existing business operations. The examination framework in the figure below emphasises these aspects, providing a holistic development tool for enterprises.

The transition towards business models in line with the circular economy requires examination at various levels. Changes in the business environment can be taken into account by assessing the ongoing development trends and drivers of change. Stakeholder participation in the examination work promotes generation of a shared view on the matter. At the level of business operations, the examination focuses on the key elements of the business model. The impact of operations is assessed from the viewpoints of requirements and the benefits achieved. The examination framework entails an idea of continuous assessment of business activities from the perspective of sustainability and the circular economy. Any changes need to be assessed, and the business model adjusted to the changed circumstances.

Examination framework

A systematic examination framework suited for
the development of business models [iii].

Teuvo Uusitalo VTT

Teuvo Uusitalo, Senior Scientist
Twitter: @TeuvoU

Maria Antikainen, Senior Scientist
Twitter: @MariaAntikainen

[i] Kraaijenhagen, C., van Oppen, C., Bocken, N., 2016. Circular Business. Collaborate and Circulate. Circular Collaboration.

[ii] BS 8001:2017. Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations – Guide.

[iii] Antikainen, M., Valkokari, K., 2016. A Framework for Sustainable Circular Business Model Innovation. Technology Innovation Management Review 6.

Discovering the unused potential of secondary materials

From the viewpoint of circular economy, a large share of products would still need improvements, particularly as regards the choice of materials and the case of residues. We also need to change our way of thinking and we need more information in order to leverage the unused potential of secondary materials.

Trends affect the product cycle

In its report “Circular by Design”[1], the European Environment Agency[2] examined the impact of product trends on product cycles. The report highlights a positive trend, modular design, which extends the life cycle of products with the help of easy remanufacturing and repairability. Other trends that support circular economy include the services developed around products and shared use, such as making the use of products more efficient.

The development of circular economy is slowed down by complex product design and increased functionality. On the other hand, functional materials may make the use of materials more efficient, but, generally speaking, heterogeneous and complex materials are difficult to reuse and recycle, especially if actions after end-of-life are not designed properly. In other words, increasing complexity and functionality hamper the cycling of materials.

3-D printing, the Internet of Things and the development of markets for recycling are examples of “hot” developing trends, the impacts of which still remain unclear from the viewpoint of circular economy: each one of the above-mentioned trends contains both positive and challenging factors:

  • 3-D printing, or other additive manufacturing technologies, enable local production and improve material efficiency, but, on the other hand, high level of customisation may make the shared use of the products involved more difficult, and the use of many materials in products can negatively impact their recyclability.
  • The Internet of Things (IoT) enables such functions as product tracking and product information management, but may contribute to increasing product complexity and use of critical product materials.
  • The markets for recycling support business models related to recycling, but focusing all resources on recycling may reduce incentives for remanufacture and reuse of products and materials.

Let us not forget the secondary raw materials

In addition to the trends described above, it is good to recognise the potential of secondary materials.

There is no general definition for secondary raw materials, but they typically include waste materials (e.g. mine tailings), side streams (e.g. slag and ashes), processing residues, material removed during product life cycle, and the products and their materials that have reached the end of their life cycle.

Waste-free production is not always possible, since the current production processes generate waste or side products, and the product life cycle is not necessarily very long. The large volume of waste material generated beside our actual product may come as a surprise to many. An example: according to report “Growth within: a circular economy vision for a competitive Europe”[3], we recapture only 5 percent of the raw material value after the first use cycle. Are we really going to forget these lost materials? When discussing sustainability and climate, the focus is often on gaseous air emissions. But what about the solid “emissions”?

Should we change our conception of such “waste material” and, from this point forward, start calling it raw material or material instead of waste?

Should we raise the bar higher? In addition to using secondary materials for such purposes as soil improvement, road construction and filler material, we could aim for high-added value materials and products given an equal status alongside primary materials.

The idea about using and utilising waste materials for functional purposes in particular is good, but there are still major challenges in making that happen, and also concerns such as potential hazardous substances.

The utilisation of secondary materials requires openness, a change in our way of thinking, research and development, scientific competence and pilot production lines. And even more important, contributing factors include enthusiasm, commitment, securing safety sufficient competence and the ability to see the potential of new initiatives in terms of business development both within industry and research.

In addition to idea generation and technical challenges, we are also facing challenges related to ways of thinking, trust, openness, value chain co-operation, markets, legislation and taxation, and getting them solved depends on our common will to do so.

Material science in CloseLoop project

At VTT, we study and develop solutions for circular economy and design strategies for circular products in the CloseLoop[4] project of the Strategic Research Council of the Academy of Finland. We seek, for example, a high-temperature-resistant material, an electroconductive material and a porous ceramic material processed out of secondary raw materials. We aim at finding such solutions utilizing aluminium industry side streams, waste electrical and electronic equipment residues, and other waste materials. All the applications mentioned above and the materials used for them need to have specific technical properties and be functional. We will demonstrate how customised high-added value applications can be produced using secondary materials alongside primary materials, so that, in the future, we could regard these material flows as assets.

Päivi Kivikytö-Reponen VTT

Päivi Kivikytö-Reponen
Senior Scientist
Twitter: @PaiviKivikyto

[1] https://www.eea.europa.eu/publications/circular-by-design

[2] https://www.eea.europa.eu/

[3] https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/assets/downloads/publications/EllenMacArthurFoundation_Growth-Within_July15.pdf

[4] http://www.closeloop.fi/

The circular economy is a rough diamond with huge potential

Maria Antikainen VTT

The circular economy is a huge, rough diamond. It offers Finland an opportunity for economic growth and employment. We can switch to the circular economy via a series of innovation leaps. The key issue is a change in paradigm; doing things in an entirely new way rather than more efficiently.

The circular economy is a team game in which goals cannot be scored by going solo

A functioning circular economy is a complex and multi-dimensional system. The idea is to close the circle, but at ecosystem level rather than that of a single player. The circular economy is like a team game, where everyone has a certain role and the players need a keen eye for the game and great timing. This requires broad know-how and holistic management.

Examining systematic, holistic solutions helps us to see the wood for the trees. Circular economy solutions are complex wholes; goals are scored by the team, not individual players. On the other hand, if a player doesn’t hold up her end, this has an impact on the entire team’s performance. The forecasting, simulation and piloting of systematic impacts are important tools for understanding and visualising the consequences of solutions in the circular economy. Life cycle assessment is a good tool for evaluating environmental impacts. When analysing the impacts of solutions, the evaluation perspective must be broad and long, in order to identify solutions that are central in terms of their actual impact.

VTT offers expertise in various aspects of the circular economy diamond

In our publication, Policy Brief, we aim to serve companies and decision-makers by presenting the views, on the circular economy, of experts from a range of sectors. We understand that every circular economy solution has its own special characteristics and that various needs for change are highlighted. At VTT, we have presented the five issues that we consider to be central; these can be expressed in the form of questions:

  • To what extent are new technology solutions needed?
  • Do we need new business models?
  • What kind of change is needed in society’s structures?
  • What kind of collaboration development, or new partners, are needed?
  • To what extent is a breakthrough solution dependent on a certain mindset and behaviour?

circular economy en

The five examples of the circular economy we present in VTT’s Policy Brief illustrate how different perspectives are highlighted, how multi-disciplinary skills are needed to promote them, and what kinds of economic opportunities they open up. With the help of inspiring, concrete examples, we want to spur Finnish companies on to think about their own strengths and challenges with regard to circular economy solutions and to take bold steps towards the circular economy. VTT provides a wide range of expertise in all areas. We can build new circular economy solutions together with our customers.

Maria Antikainen, Senior Scientist
Twitter: @MariaAntikainen

Senior Scientist Maija Federley; Senior Principal Scientist Juha Honkatukia; Senior Scientist Päivi Kivikytö-Reponen; Research Team Leader Johanna Kohl; Senior Scientist Jutta Laine-Ylijoki; Principal Scientist Raija Lantto; Principal Scientist Tiina Pajula; Research Team Leader Anu Seisto