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Carmen Jaca: "Companies that make use of waste improve their efficiency".
Carmen Jaca and Marta Ormazabal, have launched a platform - Circular Market - with the goal that Gipuzkoan SMEs can demand and offer all subject resources, including surplus and waste.
We reproduce below the interview recently conducted with the researcher of Tecnun, Carmen Jaca, in the Diario Vasco. Jaca states that "the commitment to recycling is profitable for companies because it improves their products, processes and efficiency, as well as their image in the eyes of consumers".
"The so-called circular Economics , based on the use of waste, is gaining ground against the use and throw away. Two researchers from Tecnun (campus of the University of Navarra, in Donostia), Carmen Jaca and Marta Ormazabal, have launched a platform -Circular Market- with the goal that SMEs in Gipuzkoa can demand and offer all subject resources, including surplus and waste. They recently organized a workshop attended by fifteen companies to explain project. Jaca affirms that the commitment to recycling is profitable for companies because it improves their products, processes and efficiency, as well as their image in the eyes of consumers.
- What is the goal of the platform promoted by Tecnun?
- It is part of Ecopyme, a research project funded by the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities. The Circular Market platform is part of this initiative. It aims to be a point of meeting for companies, where they can offer and demand all subject resources, including surplus or waste, as well as second-use machinery. They can also offer joint access to services or propose collaborative projects to improve sustainability. Creating community can improve the performance and value of companies.
- In principle, the linear Economics , that of 'take, make, use and throw away', seems to be cheaper than that based on recycling. What are the benefits for companies of the circular Economics ?
- The linear Economics is cheaper than the circular one only if the local cost of production is taken into account and those associated with the loss of value of materials, energy and resources involved in the extraction of virgin material and the disposal of products at the end of their useful life are not estimated. Companies that adopt this circular model will improve their products and processes, as they have focused on production efficiency and the reuse of resources throughout the production chain. In addition, society is increasingly valuing sustainable behavior.
- Can these benefits be quantified in economic and employment terms?
- According to the European Commission, in 2016 the sectors related to circular Economics employed more than 4 million workers, an increase of 6% compared to 2012. According to the same source, repair, reuse or recycling generated an added value of almost €147 billion and represented investments of €17.5 billion. There is great economic potential in the development of activities related to the circular Economics .
- Which sectors are most likely to participate in this dynamic?
- The European Commission has identified five priority sectors for action in this field, due to their potential impact on sustainability: plastics, food waste, critical raw materials, construction and demolition, and the bioeconomy.
- Gipuzkoa is an eminently industrial territory, does Economics circular serve for example for the iron and steel industry or foundries?
- Yes, in fact, the metal sector is already developing very interesting projects, such as the recovery of refractory waste, carried out by Sidenor, or the recovery of grinding sludge, currently under study. Both examples are managing to generate economic value from potentially hazardous waste. It should be borne in mind that, from entrance, foundries have a circular principle in their own process, so extending it to other elements of their activity is natural.
- Could you cite successful companies based on these practices?
- In the Basque Country we have very good examples. Eko Rec, in Andoain, is a signature based on the recovery of PET from recycling for the production of polyester fiber and top quality sheets used in the automotive and food sectors, respectively. Ekogras, in San Sebastián, recycles used food oil and converts it into biodiesel. Ekotrade, in Astigarraga, manufactures aggregates for construction from waste. Other examples are Gomavial, Ekonek, Ekolber...
- In 2015, the EU adopted an action plan to accelerate the transition to circular Economics Have the targets been met?
- The EU launched a package of 54 actions that are already being implemented, with important results in terms of employment generation and increased activities. However, this is a start and there is still a long way to go. The good news is that it is already catching on in Europe at the level of large companies, including Unilever, Philips and Renault. Also in SMEs, such as those I mentioned earlier, not forgetting research centers and public bodies. This is not a fad, it is a change that is going to stay and the smart thing to do is to get on board model.
- What is the status in the Basque Country? Are companies aware of the European Union's objectives?
- We are fortunate to have the support of public bodies, which are promoting different policies and aid for this subject of initiatives. In addition, there are associations such as Aclima or GK Recycling that bring together companies to jointly address actions aimed at development of the circular Economics in our country. In recent years, companies in the area have already begun to learn about this dynamic and many have already started with some projects. They believe that it is a very interesting way to sell more and mitigate the risks that may arise from crises associated with resource scarcity and other environmental issues".