Industrial ecology offers lessons for the circular economy


London – Researchers from Imperial College London, University College London and Yale University have published a report in the journal International Society for Industrial Ecology. In it, they highlight the key lessons from industrial ecology for anyone seeking to build a circular economy.

Industrial ecologists study how materials and energies flow through different systems. Now, leading researchers in this emerging field have published a report that provides recommendations for policymakers, academics, businesses and individuals seeking to promote a circular economy.

The report, titled “10 Insights from Industrial Ecology for the Circular Economy,” explains how insights from materials science, engineering and ecosystems must be brought together to understand how best to reuse and recycle to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The report was published in the journal International Society for Industrial Ecology.

“Scientists around the world have a wealth of skills and knowledge about how we can manage resources more sustainably and reduce the environmental impact of products throughout their life cycle,” report co-author Rupert Myers was quoted as saying in an Aug. 21 release. He is a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London. Other authors of the report are at University College London and Yale University.

Among the report’s recommendations:

Circular economies must take a “life cycle perspective” that considers all impacts, including raw material extraction through to waste at the end of the life cycle.

You need to eliminate waste in the first place to create the best and longest lasting systems.

They need to adapt to different environments. Impacts such as waste may be unavoidable in one context but acceptable in another, depending on location, stakeholders, local challenges, etc.

Infrastructure is key to any circular economy. Energy and transportation networks establish long-term patterns of use.

Technology is important, but it is not the only solution. Behavior, business models, government policies, and other conditions are equally important to creating a circular economy.

“This report shows that government and industry need to work with scientists in the UK and around the world,” Myers is quoted as saying. ce/jd