An ELI 50th Anniversary Seminar
The rapid extraction of non-renewable resources (metal ore, minerals, fossil fuels) combined with deteriorating renewable resources (air, water) reflects a firmly rooted “take, make, and dispose” economic model. Despite calls for a system-wide transformation, hurdles persist including unprecedented levels of consumerism and the persistence of low-cost materials and production processes (assembly line automation). Lower costs have allowed for planned obsolescence, compounding the demand for new products.
What are the main drivers to move away from this traditional wasteful model to the circular economy model? The list is expansive and encouraging. Internal drivers include cost savings, regulatory compliance and corporate sustainability, while external drivers include rapid technological transformation, disruptive innovation, reputational risk, and a well-informed society. These are some of the significant factors motivating the business community to rethink productivity. Pioneering design, material innovation, products as a service, product life extension, and waste as a resource are leading mechanisms through which businesses are transitioning to a circular economy and reaping the financial benefits. There are hundreds of solutions-focused initiatives collectively fostering a circular economy in the U.S. and beyond. From re-purposing flexible plastic packaging to closed loop nutrient recycling and waste to energy solutions, new technologies and business models are emerging, yet one must examine whether these are economically viable and find opportunities to expand their use.
ELI held an interactive discussion of the many facets, obstacles, and benefits of fostering a circular economy. Expert panelists included corporate leaders who are actively engaged in adopting the principles of circular economy, focusing on innovations in technology and business models/practices, and their potential to transform traditional systems of production and consumption.
Michael Goo, Partner, AJW and Circular Economy Industries Association (CEIA), Moderator
Michael Burger, Executive Director, Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and Research Scholar and Lecturer in Law, Columbia Law School
Paul Hagen, Principal, Beveridge & Diamond PC
Stewart Leeth, Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.
Meagan Weiland, Independent Researcher, Economic & Human Dimensions Research Associates and Program Coordinator, Science Magazine
ELI members will have access to a recording of this session (usually posted w/in 48 hours). If you are not an ELI member but would like to have access to archived sessions like this one, go HERE to see the many benefits of membership and how to join.