On Thursday, attendees to the Companies for Zero Waste Webinar on Emerging Technologies Accelerating Circularity were treated to insights on how designing out waste and recovery, reuse and recycling innovations will accelerate the shift into the new resource-based economy. An interactive forum, Scott Donachie, CEO and Founder of Companies for Zero Waste, moderated a panel of speakers who spoke about key points—standards, education, how we can move forward with regards to circular economy and the importance of partnerships. Highlights included:
- Mathy Stanislaus, Interim Director for Global Battery Alliance (GBA), began the conversation with a discussion on GBA’s vision—a sustainable battery chain to 2030 and its potential. He pointed out that investment in repurposing, repair, and recycling results in more ROI and drives greenhouse gas education. Data has a critical role in driving these ambitions, including leveraging data access, securing data, work in traceability, end-to-end, verification, etc. If you can reduce the cost of repurposing, you can enable access to dynamic data. GBA’s battery passport is a global solution on securely sharing info and data to prove responsibility and sustainability to customers with a “quality seal”. One of the major policy obstacles is overt restrictions or uncertainty that hinders transactions for repurposes. He pointed out that an analysis of the global rules, where the triggers are getting in the way of optimizing circularity and creating a framework to address these challenges would be beneficial.
- Carl Smith, CEO and President of Call2Recycle, spoke about the company, what they specialize in, and how they recently expanded into ESS batteries, looking at EV markets. He commented that current economics hurts battery recycling right now because there is no true recycling of lithium-ion batteries in the U.S.—only treatment. The batteries are usually shipped overseas for recycling. He stressed that optimizing waste was still lacking political leadership or good end of life policies even though they are important issues. We need to ensure end-of-life. He spoke of Europe, saying that they are more regulatory in nature and that we need a balance of both regulatory and incentives rather than penalizing consumers starting at the state and local level.
- Matthew Daus, Transportation Technology Chair at the City University of New York’s Transportation Research Center of The City College of New York, spoke about how they are facilitating and promoting EV in his area. However, the regulatory climate is tied to the political climate and a lot of it will depend on the results of the election. He stressed promoting EVS in public/private partnerships and policymaking. He pointed out that they have $7,500 tax rebates on electrics and that city fleets are ramping up and buying zero-emission vehicles. In California, their rebirth program offers $7,000 as a rebate incentive, free high occupancy vehicle lanes, and toll discounts. Currently, the City of Seattle, WA is working with the Seattle Department of Energy to create electric shared vehicles and Oslo, Norway has the most EV per capita in the world because they have valuable incentives, including tax rebates, free passes on toll roads, free municipal parking, etc. He stressed that incentives are king – they are the difference between success and failure. That’s the only way we are going to see EVs in the short term.
- Douglas Johnson, CEO/Circulor, a company that specializes traceability in raw materials and supply chains, said that regulators in many companies today see EV batteries as hazardous waste and there is a need to determine the ones that are genuinely hazardous waste and those that can have a second life. Information transparency is a crucial enabler. There is a need for scaled digital platforms to provide insight to the status of the key products and key components, provide data transparency and business confidence, prove adherence to principles and standards, provide both businesses and policy-relevant data. Most countries around the world are looking at imposing plastic taxes, but you have to follow the flow of materials through the supply chain.
- John Shegerian, Executive Chairman at ERI, a leading electronic recycler in North America explained that e-waste is the fastest growing solid waste market in the world, especially with more people working from home. He spoke of ERI’s contactless manner in which people can dispose of their technology their program. He pointed out that all of the plastics that come out of e-waste can be recycled and goes back into new electronics. E- waste is a trend that is here to stay and will grow in the years to come.
- Allison Ward, Regulatory Engineer at Dell discussed the companies goals, which included key points: for every product a customer buys, the company will reuse or recycle an equivalent product, 100 percent packaging will be made from recycled or renewable material, and more than half of the product content will be made from recyclable or renewable material. In addition, Breitner Marczewski, Senior Sustainability Engineer at General Motors discussed their zero waste approach and mission—waste will never touch the land, air or water, moving upwards to higher levels in the waste hierarchy, creating a culture of zero waste, and diverting 90% or more of all waste from landfill incineration or waste to energy facilities by 2025.
- Rob Wirtz, Director of Business Development at AMP Robotics spoke about the company and what kind of offerings they have for MRFs, which in turn allows managers to understand the contamination flow coming in and recovery rates. In particular, a company in Florida has increased throughput on their fiber lines by implementing robotic systems.
- Patricia Dillon, Senior Director of Criteria Development and Category Management for theGreen Electronics Council, talked about the role of procurement into driving a circular economy and partnerships. Circularity necessitates partnerships in the supply chain to address some of the technical and financial challenges. She explained that when we look at the circular economy, we need to integrate relationships between companies and other sectors to support zero waste goals. The Green Electronics Council’s mission is to support large-scale purchasers to buy sustainable electronics products and services as a way to incentivize producers to make sustainable electronic products. They want to create a roadmap by 2021 for circularity in the industry by 2025/2030.
- Daniel Figola, ADS’ (Advanced Drainage Systems) Director of Sustainability Development, said as second-largest plastics recycler in North America, the company consumes 100 percent of what they process. They continue to create acceptance and understanding as to how recycling materials can be used. Contamination control and blending to get to a valuable product and getting people to understand that is one of the biggest hurdles to circularity. Education is very important; people are using the wrong terminology when it comes to pre and post-processing. If we can get some education and clear language around what needs to be recycled, that would go along way. There is a lot of material that is produced every year and a small percentage makes it into the recycling streams. We need to continue to build the infrastructure for it and provide access to it for those who do not have a way to collect recycling material.
Although the session was kept interactive throughout the panelists’ presentations, at the end Scott Donachie opened it up as a forum for attendees to be on the zoom call and interact with the speakers. Attendees had a further chance to ask the panelists their thoughts on certain points and everyone had a chance to share their insights on the circular economy. Overall, the forum was a great event and we look forward to others that will be held in the near future.