What is the Circular Economy?
The circular economy is based on, unsurprisingly, the concept of circularity – re-circulating and repurposing ‘waste’ materials and keeping products and materials in use as a way of not only contributing to a zero-carbon future, but also regenerating natural systems and reducing pollution.
From a practical business perspective, it is about changing how products are made by following the full life cycle of component materials.
This is what is leading to an enormous opportunity. Imagine every industrial process, every product and every component of every product – how might it have to change to eliminate waste and achieve the regenerative, sustainable goals of a circular economy?
“Once you start to brainstorm you end up with endless possibilities.”
– Bram van den Berg, COO, Circular Rubber
Circular Solutions & The Low Carbon Economy
One company that is working to change how things are done in the sports equipment industry is Zila Works. ZILA Works uses industrial hemp to produce a 100% BPA-free bio-epoxy resin. Their solution replaces the heavy carbon footprint of plastic, chemical-based epoxies with a circular process that uses the renewable hemp crop to sequester carbon.
Another ‘circular’ company is Circular Rubber who are developing the first commercial scale devulcanization plant for industrial tires in North America, providing a sustainable alternative for the mining, forestry and agricultural industry to deal with off-the-road tires.
What Circular Rubber did was to look at the full cycle of the large tires used in heavy equipment (e.g. massive mining trucks or excavators) and then develop methods to reclaim rubber polymers and re-use the material to make new tires or other rubber products.
Like Zila Works, they are not only reusing materials, they are reducing GHG emissions – many end-of-life tires that are not reused are burned as Tire Derived Fuel, a fossil fuel that is second only to burning coal in terms of having a high carbon footprint.
(For more exciting examples of circular economy based opportunities and solutions, register for Foresight’s upcoming Reverse Pitch competition: “Closing the Loop on Circular Bioeconomy Innovation”)
The Opportunity is Now
New technologies and the imperative to decarbonize have led to multiple new opportunities emerging to transform waste (and renewables such as wood biomass, hemp, etc) into everything from electricity and heat to transportation fuels, bio-chemicals, plastics and next generation bio-materials and engineered building products.
The Value Chain Pyramid & The Bioeconomy Opportunity
(excerpt from “The Road to 2050 – Bridging the Gap Between Challenges
and Solutions in the Forestry Sector”)
For entrepreneurs and SMEs looking to launch or expand a business, this means doors are opening and opportunities are knocking.
Foresight for example, has been working with multiple industry partners who are looking to source circular economy themed solutions. In addition to Vestas who are looking for recyclable wind turbine (through our SDG Connect Challenge program), we are working with the Ford Motor Company who are looking to improve sustainable content in automotive plastics, Suzano, who are exploring sustainable barrier coatings for flexible paper packaging, and Lafarge Canada, who are seeking bio-based alternatives with cementitious properties (through the Reverse Pitch Event).
Large industry players, like the companies noted above, not only understand the profitability of cleantech solutions, they are also rethinking industrial processes and manufacturing through the lens of a circular economy – and reaching out to startups, innovators and researchers to help them find the path forward.
If you are a cleantech company looking to scale your solution and find new markets and customers, pay attention, sign up for Foresight’s opportunity-based newsletter, and register for our upcoming matchmaking events and specialized workshops. We will be letting you know about more and more of these kinds of circular economy opportunities – because they are coming at us quickly.
Buckle up and pay attention because 2021 is going to be a breakout year for bioproducts, waste/wastewater, and recycled products and processes of all kinds.
The winds of change are upon us and blowing us in the direction of a circular economy, which along with renewable energy, is the future of Canada’s economy.
The circular economy, fueled by large industry adapting cleantech at scale, is a golden opportunity – don’t let it go to waste.
If you are an industrial company looking to scale up your innovation plans towards sustainable, circular solutions, contact Foresight’s VP of Commercialization, Jacob Malthouse to discuss how you can partner with us to access Western Canada’s biggest agenda-setting cleantech intelligence network and drive your innovation agenda.
If you are a cleantech SME or startup looking to expand your horizons, scale up your business or explore opportunities in the circular economy, join our Foresight Network today. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!