Technology and sustainability
Technological advancement has catalysed the development and implementation of circular business models, driving new processes, new communication channels and new operational efficiencies that enable the decoupling of resource use from economic growth across industries and on a global scale.
Digital, physical and biological technologies are quickly maturing and, in some cases, demonstrating exponential growth in their application and uptake.
While digital technologies are based on computer sciences, electronics and communication, physical technologies focus on the basic property of materials, energy, forces of nature and their interaction. Meanwhile, biological technologies are primarily based on the structure and function of living organisms, their systems or the derivatives thereof.
Together, this combination of technologies gives an injection of momentum to disrupt current industry models.
Here's a selection of leaders:
1. Rubicon Global (cloud, big data)
Rubicon’s cloud-based, big-data platform connects waste producers with a network of independent waste haulers across 50 states in the US and Canada, as well as 18 additional countries. This enables higher diversion rates from landfill, creative reuse of waste material, optimised truck routes and the detailed analysis of waste data.
2. NCC (mobile)
Through their open eco-system, Loop Rocks platform, NCC are allowing the inherently asset-heavy construction industry to become more resource efficient. Their app makes waste from over 600 sites available to other companies at a reduced price, optimising the handling of waste and secondary masses in a smarter, cost-effective and more environmentally conscious manner.
3. Hello Tractor (machine-to-machine communication and mobile)
Based in Nigeria, Hello Tractor uses mobile technology to enable over 250,000 small-hold farmers to obtain tractor services on demand, improving their food and income security. Furthermore, the tractors are fitted with M2M technology to share information on the vehicle and its efficiency, in turn maximising the utilisation, extending the tractor's usable lifecycle, and increasing the value yielded from the machine.
4. Apple (robotics)
Liam, Apple’s iPhone disassembly robot, has 29 arms and is capable of dismantling a discarded iPhone in 11 seconds, and separating its component parts into usable materials, capturing the value from previously discarded resources at an unprecedented rate. To date, Apple has captured 61 million pounds of material that is reusable in future products, including 2,204 pounds of gold, to a value of $40 million.
5. gCycle (bio-based materials)
Pioneers in the eco-friendly diaper industry, gCycle’s gDiaper is the world’s first certified cradle-to-cradle, 100% compostable, children’s diaper. By replacing oil-based plastic with non-GMO corn biofilm, gDiapers allow childcare centres to divert 80% of their waste stream from landfill.
Technology is central to enabling and driving value in the circular economy. The importance and role of it is recognised by the Circulars, the world’s premier circular economy award programme.