Leaders unite to fight waste and pollution

January 25, 2018
Frans van Houten, Peter Lacy, Ellen MacArthur,  Erik Solheim and Georg Schmitt speak during the Session Rethinking the Modern Consumption Economy at the World Economic Forum in Davos. — WEF photo
Frans van Houten, Peter Lacy, Ellen MacArthur, Erik Solheim and Georg Schmitt speak during the Session Rethinking the Modern Consumption Economy at the World Economic Forum in Davos. — WEF photo

DAVOS, Switzerland — The heads of some of the world’s largest companies such as Alphabet, The Coca-Cola Company, Royal Philips, Unilever, the governments of Indonesia, Nigeria, the People’s Republic of China and Rwanda and UN Environment, the Global Environment Facility and the World Bank have committed to efforts that cut waste and pollution.

They have partnered to form the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) and are taking action to tackle pressing environmental challenges, from electronic waste to plastic pollution.

They advocate a circular economy: one that exchanges the typical cycle of make-use-dispose of in favor of redesign, reuse and recycling. The longer that materials and resources are in use, the greater the value extracted, which reduces our dependence on them. Extending the life of products creates new business opportunities and revenue streams, while minimizing the environmental impact of mining, resource extraction, refining and manufacture.

Globally, we consumed nearly 90 billion tons of materials last year, according to the International Resource Panel. This is predicted to double by 2050. Only 9% is cycled back into the economy, causing a huge impact on the environment and wasting an estimated $4.5 trillion in “recoverable” resources.

Plastic pollution is littering the oceans to such an extent that there could be more plastic than fish (by weight) in the seas by 2050.

Waste from electronics is growing and many countries don’t have systems to manage it safely. In 2016, 44.7 million metric tons of e-waste was generated, equivalent to the weight of 4,500 Eiffel Towers. E-waste contains a number of toxic substances that can cause great harm to health.

Pollution is leading to early deaths and led to an estimated 9 million people dying prematurely in 2015.

PACE is chaired by the heads of UN Environment, the Global Environment Facility and Royal Philips in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the International Resource Panel, Accenture Strategy and Circle Economy.

The World Economic Forum acts as host and facilitator to PACE. A full list of members is available here. PACE emerged from Project MainStream, a CEO-led initiative that helps to scale business-driven circular economy innovations.

PACE members are driving a series of efforts to increase business leadership, support enhanced investment and scale innovation. These include:

• Tackling plastic pollution in ASEAN: Partners including the Indonesian Ministry of Maritime Affairs, The Coca-Cola Company, the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility and UN Environment are helping to design solutions and channel investments to tackle marine plastics in the region. These efforts are a complement to the global New Plastics Economy Initiative led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

• Tackling electronic waste in Africa and China: Two million tons of waste from electronic goods are produced in Africa each year but the majority of countries lack the infrastructure and policy frameworks to recycle this waste safely. A collaboration between Philips, Dell, HP, Microsoft, the Global Environment Facility, UN Environment and the Nigerian Ministry of Environment is developing a sustainable business model based on circular economy to address the e-waste challenge in Nigeria. Through the Africa Circular Economy Alliance, it aims to scale across other countries in the region. The platform is also working in China where a study with Tsinghua University found that only $160 million of a potential $1.3 billion of material value is recovered by the formal recycling industry.

• Reusing and refurbishing capital equipment: Globally, high-value machines and equipment use between 2 billion and 5 billion tons of ore a year. Following the initiative of Philips, a growing group of companies including ASML, Cisco, Dell, HP, KPN, Mitsubishi Elevators and Vanderland are pledging to take full responsibility for the reuse, refurbishment and recycling of the capital equipment they sell to businesses and governments. This will incentivize extending the life of products and stopping waste at the end of product use, while capturing the economic value of materials.

• Circular Supply Chain Accelerator: The Circular Supply Chain Accelerator will provide support to medium-sized enterprises in the supply chain of large multinationals to accelerate the development of new circular business models. Lead by ING, partners in this work include the European Investment Bank, Royal BAM, Atkins, Arup and Intesa Sanpaolo, with support from Accenture Strategy.

• Government procurement: This accounts for 12% of global GDP. UN Environment is leading efforts to work with governments in creating markets for circular products and services.

Frans van Houten, chief executive officer, Royal Philips, said: “Embracing circular economy principles will help decrease environmental impact and our use of resources. At the same time, it provides business opportunities and can make our economies more inclusive. I invite all parties, both private and public, to join forces at our platform.”

Naoko Ishii, chief executive officer and chairperson, Global Environment Facility (GEF), said: “Moving to a circular economy is key for protecting the global commons. Working upstream and shifting the broader system of production and consumption is critical to moving to a circular economy. The GEF is pleased to partner with governments, as well as companies and other multilateral funding organizations though PACE to help leverage our respective resources for greater impact.”

Erik Solheim, executive director, UN Environment, said: “Tackling pollution requires actions oriented to building circularity and resource efficiency in our economy. This task is urgent, needs to be undertaken at scale and requires the action of many stakeholders: PACE plays a key role in meeting this challenge, and reaping these benefits.”

Antonia Gawel, head of Circular Economy Initiative, World Economic Forum, said: “With the advent of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, we have innovations and technologies that can help us stop waste and pollution while serving the needs of society. What we need now is to scale these up while driving collaborative leadership.” —SG/WEF

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