Can the Circular Economy work for your business?

At the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2014 a different industrial model was on the agenda: the circular economy. It’s a concept the average person may not be familiar with yet, but the idea has gained dynamic traction in business, political and environmental circles. It is becoming the focus of an initiative supported by leading companies to encourage business to embrace its principles.

Currently, the dominant business model for most industries is a Linear economy model of "Take, Make, Dispose"  processes. In this current system, organisations extract resources from our planet at an ever-increasing pace, and turn them into a product that we consume unconsciously and mostly dispose after use. This linear Industrial process often involves digging up resources to manufacture products and infrastructure, then discarding to landfill or recycling when we are finished with those materials. The businesses and lifestyles that rely on this process tend to deplete finite reserves to create products that end up in landfills or incinerators. In the consumer goods sector worldwide only about 20% of total material value is recovered while 80% goes to waste. We are anti-consciously throwing away valuable resources in this “linear” model. This approach is indeed unsustainable.

So what is the circular economy and why should individual and businesses care about it?

A circular economy is one that is waste-free and resilient by design. It addresses the unnecessary resource losses. While many may assume it is about reuse or recycling, the concept involves much more than that. The circular economy goes beyond recycling as it is based around a restorative industrial system geared towards designing out waste. It aims to eradicate waste—not just from manufacturing processes, as lean management aspires to do, but systematically, throughout the life cycles and uses of products and their components. The more effective use of materials will enable businesses to create more value, both by cost savings and by developing new markets or growing existing ones.

Analysis by McKinsey estimates shifting towards circularity could add $1 trillion to the global economy by 2025 and create 100,000 new jobs within the next five years. 


Here are the top five circular economy strategies for businesses to eradicate waste - 

1. Strive to eliminate the concept of waste entirely by making smart sourcing a number one priority and ensuring any materials not used up in the manufacturing process are reused. 

2. Sell by-products and off-spec items from the manufacturing process to another company or other industry sectors for use in that company’s production of goods. (e.g. P&G Pampers plant in the U.S. sells scrap generated during the production of baby wipes into the furniture industry for use as upholstery filling)

3. Repurpose and recover the 'used' product and reprocess fibers into raw material and put back into production of new products of similar value and utility (e.g. Patagonia takes back the used items when people no longer need their Patagonia gear, and makes it into new gear)

4. Implement waste free packaging for the product. Product packaging should be designed for recovery, and then reused, repurposed or recycled, in that order of priority.  

5. Refurbish rather than replacing equipment is another important part of a circular economy. By extending the useful life of existing equipment rather than buying new, businesses can reduce procurement costs and waste.



The 'Iron Man' armor suit gives soldiers super-human strength

The U.S. Special Operations Command (Ussocom) called on scientists to develop a lightweight smart suit using kevlar and nanotechnology that functions as a 'practical exoskeleton' to protect soldiers from shrapnel and bullets. The suit can monitor a soldier's heart rate, hydration levels and core temperature and respond to the data, supplied by an on-board computer hooked up to sensors, to keep a soldier in the best conditions for battle by providing heat, air conditioning and oxygen. If a soldier is wounded, the suit monitors their health and even stops bleeding using a "wound stasis" program such as one being developed by DARPA that sprays foam onto open injuries.

Image Credit - US Army

Image Credit - US Army

The Department of Defense plans to unveil its Iron Man-style TALOS suit in 2018.  The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) partnered with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to engineer a next-generation, super-soldier style suit for military operators. The Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS) -- named after the mythological Greek automaton made of bronze that Zeus assigned to protect his lover Europa -- will give the wearer super-human strength and protect soldiers from intensive combat situations. 

According to Defense One, the team’s early blueprint aimed to outfit the suit with full-body ballistic protection, integrated heating and cooling systems, 3D audio, embedded sensors and computers, and life-saving oxygen and hemorrhage controls — among other advanced tech. Defense industry officials believe hundreds of millions more dollars will inevitably be spent perfecting the technology before its put to use on a battlefield.

After manufacturing the suit behind closed doors for nearly a year, President Barack Obama proclaimed the U.S. military was “building Iron Man.”


Costa Rica achieved 99 percent renewable electricity generation in 2015

For 285 days in 2015, Costa Rica managed to power its grid on 100 percent renewable sources, making it one of a few countries in the world to eschew fossil fuels in energy generation.


Three-quarters of Costa Rica's electricity is generated by hydroelectric plants, taking advantage of the country's abundant river system and heavy tropical rainfalls. The rest comes from geothermal, wind, biomass and solar sources. 

Costa Rica has achieved 99 percent renewable energy use this year, showing the rest of the world that it’s truly possible to use sustainable and readily available energy sources if they make a commitment to living an on-going, sustainable way of being.


The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) said that even though 2015 was a very dry year, Costa Rica was still ahead of its renewable energy targets and aims of becoming carbon neutral by 2021.  It’s aim for the future is not only to hit 100% renewable energy but to clean up energy consumption in general, such as moving the transportation sector away from fossil fuels and becoming less dependent on hydropower. It could do this by adding more geothermal energy plants and harnessing energy from other sources.

This 3D culinary technology will revolutionize the way we cook and eat

3D printers will make food in the future; the not too distant future.  Could you imagine a 3D printer sitting in your kitchen bench alongside the Mixmaster and microwave oven?  Established players in the food industry need to recognise the potential impact of this technology on their business and how the ecosystem will evolve, where software will replace recipes, and the Internet of Things will connect all aspects of the “cooking” cycle to consumers.

The future of 3D food is already here.  Natural Machines, the maker of Foodini, a 3D food printer, had a successful kickstarter program. The company believes that their product will be as revolutionary to the kitchen as the microwave was back in the 1970's.

There are ongoing trials involving 3D-printed pasta, chocolates, biscuits and even entire meals. ‘This is much more than just a gimmick,’ says Lynette Kucsma, whose company Natural Machines plans to have the printer on general sale in British shops by the middle of next year. ‘The last revolution in the kitchen came with the microwave — we believe that the Foodini could be about to transform the preparation of food to the same extent.’ Read More

A Google & Ford Self Drive Car project

Ford is set to team up with Google to produce self-driving cars. This partnership could speed up the introduction of self-driving vehicles by giving the Ford company access to Google’s wealth of software development, while Google would benefit from the industrial and automotive know-how of Ford. The joint venture would use Google’s very advanced autonomous software in Ford cars, playing to each company’s strength. 

Google is expected to make its self-driving cars division, which will offer rides for hire, a stand-alone business under its parent company, Alphabet, next year, Bloomberg reported earlier. Fully autonomous cars could eventually prevent thousands of crashes, deaths and injuries, reduce oil use through better traffic management and extend personal mobility to people unable to drive.

Google and Ford will announce a new joint venture at CES to build self-driving vehicles with Google's technology. The partnership will save Alphabet years of R&D and billions of dollars, while Ford gets the chance to leapfrog other automakers by releasing the modern version of the Model T.


Robotic Farm machinery

Robotic Farm machinery, using GPS and sensing, can handle routine farm jobs such as spraying using a robotic lightweight tractor. Based in Queensland and with help from Queensland University of Technology and The University of Sydney Field Robotics team, this is a low impact, low cost solution for a farm to cut their labour and fuel costs. 

Instead of spending a year building out a special farm robot, they simply equipped a relatively cheap lightweight farm UTV (pictured below) and spent all their time and effort on the robotic control systems (which is where the problem really is, not with the actual machinery).

Cleaning up what’s in the ocean

Cleaning up millions of pounds of trash, mostly plastic, which have created an oceanic desert where only tiny phytoplankton can survive, is extremely critical. At least one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals die each year due to plastic pollution. This so-called “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has a horrendous environmental, economic and public health impact. The global impacts of this waste are estimated at roughly $13 trillion.  Ocean plastic does not disappear by itself so it has to be cleaned up. 

A Dutch startup called 'The Ocean Cleanup' developed the first feasible method to clean up world’s ocean garbage patches. They will begin next year to passively collect plastic debris in the waters specifically focusing on the North Pacific accumulation zone - also known as ‘the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (between Japan and South Korea, near the island group of Tsushima).

They proposed to deploy a very long array of floating barriers attached to the seabed. This would act as an artificial coastline, allowing the ocean to clean itself. 'The Ocean Cleanup' aims to deploy the first pilot system in 2016, and hopes to be able to start cleaning the North Pacific by 2020. Read More

Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

The system will act as a barrier, trapping floating debris and allowing ships to pick it up using a conveyor belt 7,900 times faster than current methods, and at just 3 percent of the current cost. If deployed in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for 10 years, the company says it could remove 42 percent of the trash, at a cost of around $5 a kilo. 

"By cleaning up what is out there right now, we also prevent the creation of more microplastics. Over time, in a process called photodegradation, UV radiation causes large plastic objects to fragment into ever smaller pieces. Not only are smaller pieces harder to extract, but they are also more harmful than large objects due to bioavailability to the small creatures that form the base of the marine food web. Small pieces are being consumed by fish and birds, and may thereby transport toxic persistent chemicals into the food chain (which includes us humans)." ..... from 'The Ocean Cleanup'
Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Image Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Could the iPad Pro be a Game Changer for Work?

The new iPad Pro has been designed to straddle the mobility and laptop categories.  It is a powerful, 12.9-inch tablet that runs high-end business-class apps. This is one of the first iPads to pack in its own stylus with the Apple Pencil and its own keyboard with the Smart Keyboard. However, its large size makes it less portable than other iPads.

The pressure-sensitive Pencil stylus offers superior sketching and drawing, and the Pro's gorgeous giant screen and quad speakers are ideal for split-screen apps, multitasking and watching movies.

Renewable energy investment

Uruguay makes a dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy. The country is defining global trends in renewable energy investment.

In less than 10 years, Uruguay has slashed its carbon footprint without government subsidies or higher consumer costs. They have added Biomass and Solar power to their existing hydropower. The country relies on a mixture of energy resources including wind turbines, solar power, hydropower, and biomass. .....  this means that renewables now account for 55% of the country’s overall energy mix (including transport fuel) compared with a global average share of 12%. 

Renewables provide 95% of the country’s electricity, and prices are lower than in the past relative to inflation. There are also fewer power cuts because a diverse energy mix means greater resilience to droughts.

According to Ramón Méndez, Uruguay’s head of climate policy - the key to success is rather dull but encouragingly replicable: clear decision-making, a supportive regulatory environment and a strong partnership between the public and private sector.“What we’ve learned is that renewables is just a financial business,” Méndez says. “The construction and maintenance costs are low, so as long as you give investors a secure environment, it is a very attractive.”

Méndez further attributes Uruguay’s success to the fact that investors have discovered clean energy makes good business sense. Uruguay’s state utility guarantees fixed energy prices for 20 years, which has encouraged foreign companies like the German wind power firm Enercon to build plants.  Read More

Influence of Drones

Drones are delivering the ability to transform wildlife conservation, illegal fishing patrols and detect illegal poachers from the air. Now these unmanned aerial vehicles look set to be a big boon in efforts to preserve, monitor, and restore rainforests around the world. Drones will be a game changer for tropical forest recovery and conservation, as many rainforest regions are difficult to access and many land owners are individual farmers who possess neither the time, the skill or the money. Read More


Drones are already proving incredibly efficient at aerial mapping on building sites, and they are forming an integral part of business operations for innovative construction firms the world over. A drone has a unique set of attributes that sets it apart from conventional construction machinery, unlike cranes, drones have the ability to reach any point in space. Drones can be a major contribution on the projects where labor is prohibitively expensive, or workers cannot go there.

Floating Hotel

The Floating Hotel is developed by Salt & Water (Architecture and Yacht design company) with the aim to promote tourism on inland waters that offer wonderful examples of untouched (and often neglected) nature.  Here, the floating hotel would be a perfect solution for tourism without any violation of the natural harmony of the place itself.

The main idea is to allow users to enjoy their visit through navigating the waterways at a very slow speed and with an uninterrupted view of nature . For this reason the catamarans have this unusual shape with large windows in the front.

Multi-species 3-D ocean farms

In recent years, scientists and entrepreneurs have been working on ways to create a more sustainable food system. GreenWave, on Long Island, has accomplished that by setting up "multi-species 3-D ocean farms" growing seaweed, scallops, mussels, clams, and oysters. 

The vertical seaweed gardens are designed to provide an alternative for communities that can no longer rely on fishing.  Seaweed farms have the capacity to grow huge amounts of nutrient-rich food, and oysters can act as an efficient carbon and nitrogen sink.

GreenWave is a winner of the prestigious Buckminster Fuller Institute prize for the project “world’s first multi-species 3-D ocean farm,” a vertical underwater garden that aims “to restore ocean ecosystems and create jobs in coastal communities by transforming fishers into restorative ocean farmers. The sustainable underwater farms may offer a new source of income for fishermen who can no longer rely on fishing. Read More>

A drawing of Greenwave’s 3D Ocean Farming system / Greenwave

A drawing of Greenwave’s 3D Ocean Farming system / Greenwave

Instead of monolithic factory fish farms, GreenWave see the oceans as the home of small-scale farms where complementary species are cultivated to provide food and fuel -- and to clean up the environment and fight climate change. Smith believes seaweed is a viable alternative because it is healthy and sustainable. Instead of harming the ocean, seaweed farms actually help to pull pollution out of the water. In short, seaweed gardens can actually remove carbon dioxide and nitrogen from the ocean.

Governed by an ethic of sustainability, they are re-imagining our oceans with the hope of saving us from the grip of the ever-escalating climate, energy, and food crises.

Trophic cascades are powerful indirect interactions that can control entire ecosystems.

In the early 1900s, when wolves roamed Yellowstone, young trees such as aspen and willow were abundant. In 30 years, after wolves were hunted out, the forest stopped regenerating. Reintroducing wolves into Yellowstone National Park after nearly 70 years of absence has been controversial. However, the effects have been utterly transformative to the Yellowstone ecosystem.

A trophic cascade recently has been reported among wolves, elk, and aspen on the northern winter range of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA.

What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers?  What happens when a species that has been hunted to extinction is introduced to its happy hunting grounds after 70 years? Find out in this beautiful little film.

Could the impact of a species on an entire ecosystem  leads us to think differently about sustainable lines for solving the global climate crisis?