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Lessons learned towards a Circular Economy

In May 2013 SRE organised the conference ‘Circular Economy: from how to (k)now’.  In this conference we brought together different stakeholders and projects regarding the ‘circular economy’.  A circular economy captures materials so that today’s goods are remanufactured or reused to become tomorrow’s goods. Unlike the current linear system, in which raw materials are destroyed after consumption. From our perspective the BioenNW projects like ‘Delivering Bioenergy to Northwest Europe’ (BioenNW) is part of this new economy closing the loops.

More and more we see interrelations between the themes of: bioenergy, biobased, waste management and the cradle to cradle approach. All these various aspects we showed at the Circular Economy conference. More than 200 people joined the conference, to learn more about these different approaches integrated by SRE in the Eindhoven Region and to meet other stakeholders working in the field.

One of the projects highlighted during this conference was of course the BioenNW project. In our region, the sector AgroFood is highly developed. There are huge economical and ecological opportunities for innovation and new business at the interface of Agro, Food and Technology. Opportunities for a new economy, which not only produces food but also energy and materials for industry from Agro and Food residues.

In this blog I would like to point out a few interesting eye openers I heard in the various presentations:

1.   The circular economy should start on a local level Active engagement of end-users is necessary to make the  difference.

More and more initiatives arise in our region to organize the procurement and production of energy locally. The SRE organizes a dome of expertise for new local energy cooperations in the Eindhoven Region. The energy cooperations ‘Energyport Peelland’ and ‘Tomorrow Green Energy’ can be seen as frontrunners in the region. We have to link the projects which are adapted by governments or businesses with these local initiatives. In this way citizens get more and more involved: ‘’the power to the people’’.

2.   Because citizens know little about biobased and bioenergy and have little interest, they often counter new initiatives.

We work together with several stakeholders from universities, research institutions, businesses and government on bioenergy and biobased projects. However, in practice, we are confronted with protests from citizens, who are afraid that their surroundings will be affected; mostly because they don’t know much about the technique. It is important that citizens are involved early in a decision making process.

3.    An initiative should be treated just like a plant or flower: don’t pull it out of the ground, but nourish and water it.

Many governmental organisations are used to ‘pull’ a project or initiative, top down, but that doesn’t work. An initiative should have a project owner, for example a project developer or a business, who really wants to make the project a success. A government can help through direct support (regulations, network et cetera).

At the end of the conference many speakers came to the same conclusion: they see a development going on of more and more local participation and cross sectoral cooperation, which is really necessary to achieve concrete results and make the difference to towards a circular economy. And I think, working together within the BioenNW project, we give a good example.

Words by Barbara Marcus
SRE, Netherlands