Circular economy: an answer to the plastic soup?

Plastic soup

Het onderwerp van de plastic soep in de oceanen staat via de walvis ook uitgebreid op het programma van de Pathways to Sustainability conferentie op 24 januari in TivoliVredenburg.

Er is een break-out session om 14.00 uur, getiteld Circular economy: an answer to the plastic soup? geleid door Prof Ernst Worrell and Dr Walter Vermeulen van de Universiteit Utrecht.

De sessie is in het Engels.

Circular economy: an answer to the plastic soup?

‘Scientists worldwide estimate there are 150 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean right now, with an estimated 8 million tons added every year. That means, pound for pound, there is more plastic waste from our cities swimming in the ocean than there are whales.’ – Studiokca, designers of the ‘Skyscraper’, a whale made of plastic waste.

The artwork ‘Skyscraper’, at the time of the conference in the canal next to TivoliVredenburg, is symbolic for the debate in this interactive session. Apart from the whale in the canal we also have a huge ‘whale in the room’ in discussing the circular economy. How did we get to this point? Do we have to consume less, and why do we consume so much in the first place? In addition to the plastic waste issue, in North-West Europe we also achieve high recycling rates for many materials. Whose responsibility is it to deal with this enormous amount of waste? Is waste production perfectly acceptable as long as we reuse it – for example through repurposing it for creating arts?

Both industry and government have embraced the circular economy for its economic and environmental benefits. However, the concept is badly defined, and not without controversies and criticisms. Circular economy can become an innovative and comprehensive path to sustainability, or simply a rebranding of concepts such as ‘green growth’ and ‘waste = food’. In this session, we use the ‘whale to room’ to highlight the key debates related to the circular economy, explore the changing role of consumers and producers in the circular economy, and discuss how the circular economy connects to sustainability.

Speakers include Prof Ernst Worrell, Dr Walter Vermeulen, Dr Li Shen and Ana Poças MSc, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University.