• Steve Cassidy, Co-Founder of Eiravato

6 SMART Circular Trends 2021

Updated: Feb 25

Concerns about plastics, a lack of systemic data, the emergence of the European Green Deal and the United States re-joining to the International climate agreement signals a busy weather front for 2021 against the backdrop of the Covid-19 experience and more. In this article you will find out what are the six SMART trends in Circular Economy for 2021 worth to watch.

Table of contents

  1. Single use Plastics

  2. Circular Economy - Buzz or Real

  3. Rise of Metrics

  4. Demonstrate

  5. Governments under pressure

  6. Circular Thinking

  7. More Brands will employ Reusable Packaging

Single use Plastics

The pressure will continue as concerns about single use plastics will continue to grow. But those concerns must be balanced against replacement product functionality and real on the ground tangible impact. It is visible that many so-called better options do not meet purpose, rather create increased volumes as well as being problematic for the waste industry cope with. Use of single use plastics increased significantly because of pandemic as it was the go to choice so that many sectors including hospitality could conduct their business in a manner that was safe to do so. There was no back up plan, we could see the visible impact by just looking at overflowing municipal street bins. 2021 in this regard needs to be considerate of cause and effect, take account of holistic planning that not all plastics are bad, it is too about how we manage them to maximise their value to include measured lifecycle tracking, return schemes and potentially new local micro businesses that could be mobilised.

Circular Economy – Buzz or Real

2021 will be a busy year as the circular economy emerges because of the European Green Deal and the global recognition of it as a vehicle for responsible green commerce. The is the danger of a rush stampede mentality that could overwhelm industry and key stakeholders with a myriad of green claims, badges, labels, and questionable offsetting that are merely fools gold that redirect resources and finance delivering no real impact on the ground. Such diversions or green washing is the biggest competitor for legitimate circular economic activities, innovation, and financing.

Matters of sustainability, the environment and even climate change have their skeptics. There is a specter that if green washing is let loose, the perception of the circular economy will embolden the skeptical if it becomes merely buzz.

2021 is an opportunity for legislators and financiers to gold pan real projects, innovations and human energy to ensure responsible advertising that ensures supports and funding to those that deliver real on the ground impact.

Rise of Metrics

It is probably fair to say that the world was ill-prepared to manage the global pandemic that we have all experienced. What was observable was that from a data perspective we were certainly on the back foot. With such a dearth, some models were naturally skewed but more so was the often the ignorance of the media that frightened and already frightened population with claims that simply were not data factual.

W. Edward Deming quoted “In God we trust, all other must bring data”, whilst on the other hand remembering that bad data is bad everything. The World Economic Forum recognises and is quoted that the Circular Economy is underpinned by a “Dearth of Data”. We hear often ‘build back better’, whilst acknowledging the dearth for the circular economy there is a need to think ‘build from the ground up’.

A healthy circular economy is not the domain of one but the results of combined efforts of the many stakeholders that mobilise and accelerate activity. A circular community needs to relate to digital network technology that captures data from the ground up. Upon a robust data foundation, key stakeholders can be informed and the right decisions and supports made. Robust data de-skews emerging models and counters greenwashing advertising that ensures that the right people and organisations get the supports, financing and incentives they need.

2021 when relating to the circular economy is the year when it will recognised that data/metrics, the innovators and entrepreneurs are indeed king.

Demonstrate – Show Don’t Tell

The European Union will in 2021 support large-scale systemic solutions and regional demonstration projects and aspires to be a circular economy global leader. Incorporated is just transition and leave no one behind, but there is a cautionary tale. The EU must open its doors to those that may be best positioned to understand ground up necessities as it is, they that have experienced circular or waste dysfunction. It should not be the sole purview of the obvious, the vested interest, rather those innovators that have on the ground experience whilst having the skills to understand and build systemic network technology where the obvious can engage upon.

The question is, how open are our doors and what are the barriers to demonstration. There is no doubt that waste should be a major contributor to the circular economy and the European Green Deal and no doubt that disruptive technology can and will shake to deliver high impact enabling network technology, transition tools and methodologies.

Governments under pressure

Covid-19 pandemic hit governments at so many levels and its peoples have suffered in more ways that can be written about. Whether we look to the future as build back better, the new normal or getting back to business what is for sure is that stimulus is 2021 will be paramount. It is hard to look take a positive view of the pandemic but for sure we can now clearly measure the environmental impact of human activity. We understand the need for balance, the need to stimulate human happiness, health, freedoms, innovations, and the entrepreneurial spirit. That balance or build back better should naturally embed our capability to innovate to reduce carbon to accelerate meeting national GHG targets.

Deployment of circular economy network technology presents a significant opportunity for governments to transform national waste data models that are no longer fit for purpose, to an intelligence led data rich, robust interactive ecosystem that engages all stakeholders. Governments that are open, facilitate demonstration and do not engage in resistance to change will prosper and lead. A radical review of waste simply cannot happen effectively if it relies of old waste centric data recording models. The model exists but are the doors genuinely open.

2021 will not be the year when we fully reflect the pandemic experience, but it is the year where we can break the mould of old habits and this is particularly relevant to waste. Governments have a window of opportunity to be bold, to support and enable innovative network technology not as a replacement for waste centric models, but parallel that is focused of circularity.

Circular Thinking

If adopted, there are many benefits such as:

  • a reduction in raw material use,

  • radical reduction in waste,

  • increased circular asset availability but carbon is part of the solution too.

Lifecycle management methodologies alters how we look at and manage waste through the lens of circular economy rather than linear. Visible circular economic value proposition encourages greater participation by industry resulting in the reduction of carbon GHG emissions significantly.

Availability of robust circular centric data arising from network technology informs governments and to both barriers that presently impede but also where targeted incentivisation vehicles should be deployed. There are many systemic barriers in situ and through circular data provision the effects of retention can be measured. Said barriers are so significant that under the lens of cause and effect they strangle the value proposition and thus why industry mobilisation can be described as “too slow”.

Data provision arising from the adoption of network technology can bring many benefits such visibility of infrastructure deficits. These deficits present an opportunity to build better with a capability to create thousands of jobs.

More brands will employ reusable packaging

There is mounting pressure on the packaging manufacturing sector with potential new laws such as extended producer responsibility, single use bans and increased carbon taxes on virgin resins. Too manufacturers face increased demands from trading brand partners and retailers that increasingly want packaging that meets the eco-conscious demands of consumers.

But what of risks, quality and continuous supply flows and the value proposition. We also need to reflect on the replacement of standard plastics with so called environmentally friendly alternatives, that when LCA tracked paint a different picture.

Manufacturers first need to have clarity with regard to the value proposition and secondly should they transit, that the process is de-risked. Whilst there are many existing and new stock feed projects being undertaken, can they cope with the increased supply demands and combat shortages should many more manufacturers enter the market. It is worth reminding that the circular economy is not the domain of one and this too applies to the packaging industry.

The systemic deployment of network technology is by design to connect all stakeholders and in this case would present millions of tonnes of now quality de-risked plastics. Network technology connects those that have and those that require, whilst educating those that do not know that they have.

Systemically network technology encourages value chain partners to collaborate with a shared focus to deliver plastics that are of quality, consistency warehoused in Blockchain to ensure visibility, efficiency and trust.

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