[Insights] How is the circular economy a source of innovation?
What are the changes caused by the transition to the circular economy?
In what way are these a driving force for differentiation in companies?
What changes do they bring about in public policies?
Eric Fournier and Bernard Delmas give us some insights.
ÉRIC FOURNIER, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT FOR THE ENVIRONMENT, SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, ENERGY AND REGIONAL PARKS IN THE AUVERGNE-RHÔNE-ALPES REGION
How does the circular economy provide new activities?
The circular economy is a change of model, and moving towards it requires some major economic transmutations. As a result, it is a driving force for emerging activities. The Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Region needs to be able to identify and anticipate these transmutations and the inherent changes in jobs.
This has a certain impact on regional public policies. The training, for which the region is responsible, is a powerful lever to support this change. Other appropriate tools must also be used.
The circular economy also has a significant impact on the area because it encourages companies to be more strongly rooted locally and offers a redefinition of the area. It also encourages strong interaction between new activities and digital through the implementation of the functional service economy, exchange platforms, etc.
Seeking to extend product life stimulates the creation of new sectors around reuse, recycling and repair.
Changes in consumer behaviour are not negligible: they impel the emergence of more “circular” activities. They are clear signals that this transmutation is under way.
What are the effects of the circular economy on innovation?
The innovation generated by the circular economy is not only a technological one. It is primarily cross-sectoral: it requires decompartmentalized organizational thinking, through processes for companies, and through public policies for local authorities.
Local authorities, and in this case the Region, must develop a capacity for global and systemic analysis of the process, based on the integration of external features and on a multi-criteria, cross-sectoral analysis. This implies a real change of mindset! We have been talking about it for a long time, but today, things have become urgent.
The Region is convinced of the importance of investing in research and development in the field of the circular economy. The Regional Action Plan for the Circular Economy (PRAEC) 1, in the process of being drawn up, aims to play a key role in this respect with sectors and areas.
What are the main features of the PRAEC?
The PRAEC has two priorities:
- Incorporate a new dimension in waste recovery
- Set out national guidelines for the circular economy by considering specific features of the region.
Some fifteen guidelines have been provisionally identified so far via topics such as plastics, construction, chemistry, training and awareness of the circular economy, incorporation of secondary raw materials in production chains, a new approach to the environment and environmental innovation in schemes, the link between sectors and areas, etc.
What social, economic, environmental and societal advantages and benefits can circular economy projects provide?
Identifying the advantages and benefits of a “circular solution” can lead to a comparison exercise that can sometimes be tricky. Analysing the impact of an activity that is said to be more circular than another requires a lot of assessment work. The question of the value of external factors and how these are monetized needs to be considered.
Criteria can be set around employment and the economy in order to identify new activities, those being converted and those being shut down, because of the changes mentioned above. All this leads to new analysis models. The evaluation of public policies with regard to the circular economy is a central issue.
1.The PRAEC is part of the Regional Waste Prevention and Management Plan (Plan Régional de Prévention et de Gestion des Déchets - PRPGD)
BERNARD DELMAS, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH IN CHARGE OF DURATION PERFORMANCE (MICHELIN GROUP)
Maximizing the life of tyres has always been central to the Michelin Group business model. Centred on product quality and technological performance, its innovation approach is increasingly focused on consumers, their relationship with the product and how it is used. In the 1990s, energy consumption and CO2 emissions induced by the design and use of tyres were an integral part of their performance. Performance grading in terms of noise, rolling resistance and wet braking for new tyres was introduced in Europe in 2012.
Maximizing the life of tyres for professional vehicles...
Michelin Solutions for trucks, fleets of light vehicles and civil engineering no longer sells “tyres” but services that provide support for fitting, maintenance or replacement, offering tyre outsourcing for the whole fleet, providing advice on reducing fuel consumption in relation to tyre usage, etc. Billing is based on the number of kilometres travelled and not on the number of tyres sold. This solution is part of the functional service economy. The customer-supplier relationship is based on contractualization in time and on the company’s responsibility with regard to the product throughout its life, since it retains ownership of it. Maximized use of tyres is guaranteed by systematic monitoring.
... and for private cars
Globally homogeneous regulations set the minimum legal tyre tread depth at 1.6 mm. However, motorists very rarely use tyres down to this limit because of (unjustified) safety concerns. Some professionals also encourage them to replace them before they need to. According to a study published in the scientific journal Tire Science and Technology, half of the tyres in the European Union are now removed at 3 mm. Based on this observation, Michelin wanted to examine the performance of its worn tyres via multiple safety parameters (braking, grip, road-holding, etc.). Tests show that a worn tyre stops in a shorter distance than when it is new on dry roads, that a worn tyre has a lower contribution to vehicle fuel consumption and is quieter than when it is new. Overall, contrary to popular belief, the performance of a worn tyre improves, except for grip on wet and snowy roads. However, on wet roads, some worn tyres are as efficient as some new ones. The performance of worn tyres is related to the quality of its design.
Using tires down to tolerated wear would not only be a saving for the consumer (equivalent to buying two extra new tyres per vehicle every five years) but would also lead to considerable environmental gains: a saving of 400 million tyres per year and 35 million tonnes of CO2 per year worldwide.
Change the image to combat planned obsolescence
Today, the challenge for Michelin is to change the how its customers (distributors and users) see worn tyres. To do this, the group launched a global communication and awareness campaign in 2017. At the same time, it is working with public authorities such as the European Commission to introduce safety tests for worn tyres into regulations and certification.
The solutions proposed tend towards a profound change in the mode of consumption. Through them, Michelin is opting for programmed longevity.
Source: ECLAIRA - Newsletter No. 9 / January 2018
Newsletter edited by CIRIDD with support from Région Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes
Photo credits: Fotolia - Michelin
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