When do we see? The opportunities of being resource wise
Just think of yourself doing a regular visit to a grocery store. Using small plastic bags for veggies and fruits, having all kinds of foodstuff packed in various forms of package material, often in several layers. The packing all that stuff to plastic bags to carry them back home. Using presumably those same plastic bags for waste packing at home, thus they end up either to landfills or incinerator.
In Europe, we are using 100 billion plastic bags - in a year! - made from imported synthetic materials. Which means many detrimental things: huge add-on to environmental pressure, terrible waste of nonrenewable resources but also loss of jobs, loss of business opportunities. In fact, nothing good comes with that, unless you count the immediate pleasure of using bag.
We are stupid enough to continue the old ways because we have stopped thinking systemically, or more hands-on, in value-chains. Just consider this: The value chain of bioplastics is rather impressive: replacing one thousand tons of petrol-based polymers by natural polymers locally sourced equals the creation of 60 jobs. Raw materials could obtained from the agricultural sector, either from waste streams like low quality potatoes or from weeds that are invading every corner of our land. My friend from from Club of Rome, Gunter Pauli, the author behind Blue Economy will be a part of this transformation by chairing the Novamont company, who is the industry leader for biodegradable and compostable bioplastics. Italy, of all countries, has been progressive with this: they ban ordinary plastic bags by 2011 and this has had a lot of positive results, see this video. European commission has been forwarding new legislation that was recently decided by European parliament to go on with measures reducing the use of plastic bags.
We can go on endlessly with this list of stagnation, stupidity and loss of vision that could be turned into wealth and jobs. An example from my home country Finland. Finland's net import of fossil fuels equals 8, 5 billion euros. If we would start to produce this imported energy locally from renewable materials, which is totally possible and price competitive, we could produce another 30 000 jobs for our country. But since our energy policy has had no other real focus than producing energy for big users with lowest possible price, it has not harnessed this opportunity. The research group I am part of has now made a illustrative case of this. And we are now talking to politicians, businesses and other parties in the hope that they could see the same thing as wee. At least we seem to be partially successful as the new Finnish Government, nominated yesterday, adopted our basic ideas.
Its is amazing to think what sort of new job and wealth creation opportunities lies understanding better the value chain. Next week, European Commission will come up with its proposal to promote radically more material and energy efficient circular economy. Along with its former announcements, Commission comes up hopefully now with some concrete measures how make more intelligent resource use a key competitive edge of European economy towards the future. One clear message comes from the data that tells how much Europe is currently squandering its resources by creating waste. It turns out that best waste performing country is Estonia!
As always, citizens and companies have been more swift to see the opportunities than governments. In Berlin, there is new supermarket opening that has left behind all the packaging, see . How refreshing idea! I am sure they are going to be well received by consumers. Similarly, Dell has decided to make all of their packaging material for computers from wheat straw fibers by 2020.
The whole point is that building this new kind resource wise economy is that in addition to be profitable and environmentally friendly it can be a lot of fun too. We could have a lot of different kind of competitions to come up with new and innovative solutions. We should support the emergence of new Gyro Gearlooses (in Finnish Pelle Peloton) by building funding schemes that would help these innovations to materialize.
All we need to do is to look around us with fresh eyes.