Reduce, reuse, refill and repair have become important words when addressing the circular economy debate, the protagonist of a conference organized this Monday by elDiario.es in Madrid. A meeting opened by the Second Vice President and Minister of Labor, Yolanda Díaz, who has advocated for “reconcile the ideas of sustainability and decent work“and has warned that, to address this economic transformation,” debates cannot be postponed forever. ”
During a roundtable discussion on the impact on Employment of the circular economy, Verónica Martínez, General Director of Labor, defended that this new model could be a “window of opportunity” in which public administrations are going to be “main agents” , which supposes “a very big difference” with respect to other previous economic transformations.
The perspectives, he pointed out, point to a net increase of 1% in employment that will compensate for that which is lost in the most polluting sectors, such as those with intensive use of fossil fuels.
Vicente Sánchez, secretary of Strategic Transitions and Territorial Development of Comisiones Obreras, has declared himself “optimistic” in the face of the destruction of jobs that this transition is going to generate, which cannot be done “from one day to the next.” And he recalled that, according to the EU, strictly complying with the community waste recovery regulations would generate 400,000 jobs on a European scale and some 57,000 in Spain.
Rafael Escudero, Secretary General of Consumption and Gambling, has highlighted among the lines promoted by the Ministry of Consumption the so-called Proximity Consumption, which has been seen “as something essential” with the pandemic, and which can be an important employment niche in Spain emptied, especially feminine. And he has defended that his department’s campaigns against childhood obesity are producing “a displacement” of consumption, but not a reduction.
During a discussion table on “Second Life in Industry”, Raül Blanco, Secretary General for Industry and SMEs, recalled that industries such as steel, paper or aluminum have always had a high circularity component for “years” , although now “it can be done with much more intensity and in such a way that it reaches the entire value chain”.
Blanco recalled that in the Recovery Plan it is foreseen that there will be some PERTE (strategic projects) aimed at the green industry or the circular economy; has encouraged SMEs to apply to the calls of the Ministry of Industry for the promotion of the circular economy; and has stressed that the pandemic has highlighted the importance of having raw materials to supply the industry, with circularity as “one of the elements” to take into account.
Emilia Arias, corporate director of Technology and Energy Transition at Técnicas Reunidas, has indicated that she is already beginning to receive requests for multi-million dollar turnkey projects related to the circular economy, such as carbon capture, “with the idea that they are executed in the year 2022 “.
Arias, who has described the idea of ”zero growth” as “unreal”, has stressed that in these projects it is essential that from an economic point of view they “make sense.” His company is “opening the focus” beyond the petrochemical industry, to which it has traditionally been linked and to which “we must not demonize”, but rather “make it efficient” because “there is a lot of polymer that can be recycled.” “What cannot happen is that it ends up in the sea in the form of microplastics.”
Ana Callol, Vice President of Public Affairs, Communication and Sustainability at Coca-Cola Europacific Partners, recalled that the company already uses recycled materials in its packaging and has set the goal of emission neutrality in 2040, and recalled that digitization It “helps” to introduce efficiency into processes and to find the use of more sustainable and recyclable materials.
But it is necessary to use “very clear” measurement metrics to measure the achievement of short, medium and long-term objectives. For example, in the use of water, for which it has a target of cutting 20% compared to 2020.
At the table, the presence of Ignacio Colmenares, president of Ence, was scheduled, who was finally unable to attend due to a positive coronavirus in the paper company.
The first table, “Good for the environment, good for the consumer”, has addressed concrete examples of how to face the “change in narratives”, which, in the words of the director of the Biodiversity Foundation, Elena Pita, is required for the circular economy “is a fact and is implanted” and the world can leave a model in which it needs the equivalent of 1.7 planets to be able to continue operating.
Pita recalled that the main drivers of biodiversity loss are climate change, changes in land use, pollution, overexploitation of resources and the proliferation of invasive species. All “closely linked to the way we produce and consume.”
For Eva Saldaña, executive director of Greenpeace Spain, in recent years “the focus has been on recycling”, but this is an “obsolete” concept because “it has not been efficient, effective or sufficient”; and the pandemic has highlighted the importance of relocating production because “the chains are on the other side of the world.”
In Saldaña’s opinion, it is necessary to go “to the beginning” of the chain of a system based on “overproduction”, to “reduce, slow down” and “redesign” the economy in general. And he has cited examples in which there is ample room for improvement, such as the textile industry or the planned obsolescence of a technology industry that sells products in whose design “there is a disposable scheme.”
In a world in which, according to the FAO, a third of the existing food is wasted, a business case based on the circular economy is that of Too Good to Go, an app of Danish origin that promotes the rescue of leftover food of any food establishment and allows you to buy it at a reduced price so as not to generate new demand.
Its project manager in Spain, Helena Calvo, recalled that it is estimated that a quarter of that third that ends up in the garbage could feed all the people who today do not have access to food. In Spain, in the three years that the project has been operating, it has “saved” five million batches of food that it receives from hotels, supermarkets or restaurants.