30 Nov PODCAST 5: BUSINESS ECOSYSTEMS AS ENABLERS OF CIRCULAR ECONOMY SOLUTIONS
The central idea in the circular economy is minimising waste and loss and maintaining the value tied in the materials for as long as possible, for example, with reuse and recycling. A change in attitudes and operating models as well as new kinds of partnerships are required in order for the circular economy to be realised. An extensive cooperation of different actors – businesses, research and educational organisations, public sector – across industry sectors makes it possible to create a circular economy ecosystem.
Assistant Professor Samuli Patala at Aalto University School of Business sees that the essential part in ecosystems is the whole created by several actors from different sectors of the value chain. The actors cooperate to achieve shared goals so that more value is created together than alone. According to Noora Alhainen from Pure Waste Textiles Oy, these kinds of ecosystems are of great benefit. Through trusted partnerships, Pure Waste has been able to participate in various projects and has received support and funding for the testing of new business models and for product development.
“We probably would not be in this place if our ecosystem was not working”, Alhainen emphasises.
Alhainen sees different projects as important routes to circular economy ecosystems. Pure Waste has participated in the textile circular economy project, Telaketju, which was the starting point, for example, for Rester Ltd. and its end-of-life textile refinement plant that will open in Paimio. The plant enables sorting and processing of textiles in Finland, thus creating new opportunities to strengthen the circular economy ecosystem – and local textile industry. Furthermore, the EU directive that obliges member states to collect textile waste separately by 2025, directs towards local processing of end-of-life textiles. However, it is important also to consider what can be done with the collected material and whether or not there are Finnish companies that might be ready to develop new products from end-of-life textiles.
“This is certainly a very important development”, Patala estimates.
“Of course, one of the main questions is, will we be able to bring or rebuild this value chain of textile industry in Finland so that whole system here would be more efficient.”
Nevertheless, textile and clothing industry is not the only potential user of end-of-life textiles. Patala gives furniture industry as an example.
“There will probably be also many other innovations linked to this action.”
In addition to different research and development projects, active actors who ensure the continuity of the ecosystem after the project ends, have also an important role in the ecosystems. However, it is not necessary for everyone to be the coordinator or the driving force of the ecosystem. Both Patala and Alhainen encourage companies to open-mindedly create new cooperation models and to find out about the opportunities of the circular economy.
“At the beginning, one can just listen. The power of these ecosystems is also that they spark ideas and thoughts about what one could do. I’d say that in the end it is in a sense the power of cooperation that drives things forward”, Alhainen encourages.