The Pandemic has Highlighted our Economic Vulnerability.
Our global economy relies on deeply intertwined supply chains, sustained by more than 100 billion tons of raw materials entering the system each year. It has been unsustainable for decades, and in just a few months since the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak began, it’s become clear that it is dangerously fragile as well. The pandemic has and will cause immense suffering. Yet, it is forcing us to embrace a fundamental change in the way we perceive and utilize our planet’s resources. This is essential for our survival.
What is a Circular Economy?
“A circular economy is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. Circular systems employ reuse, sharing, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to create a closed-loop system, minimizing the use of resource inputs and the creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions. The circular economy aims to keep products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, thus improving the productivity of these resources. All waste should become reusable for another process: either a by-product or recovered resource for another industrial process or as regenerative resources for nature (e.g., compost).” Wikipedia
How will a Circular Economy Help Us?
This more sustainable approach contrasts starkly against the traditional linear economy, which has a "take, make, dispose model of production. The current world economies, particularly in capitalist societies, are a paradox: they are based upon infinite economic growth models in a world with finite resources. In short, by implementing a circular economy, we will have finally acknowledged the fact that our world offers limited resources. Policy premised on this acknowledgment will mitigate the effects of climate change by promoting water and nutrient security as well as security or resiliency in materials.
The Seeds of Sustainability Have Already Been Planted.
The circular economy is not an abstract concept. Its principles are being applied today to help us cope with the pandemic. Manufacturing and supply-chain shortages within the health sector have, for example, driven circular innovation. We already see results in the use of sterilization agents to decontaminate N95 masks and give them a second life as well as spurred fabrication laboratories (fab labs) that are banding together to innovate prototype designs and processes for medical use.
Beyond the health sector, responsible packaging firms continue to innovate on sustainable and recyclable consumer goods, despite the rise in single-use plastic packaging as a result of quarantine-related home deliveries and fears associated with reused materials. The food and beverage sector, for its part, is working with organizations to redirect surplus food to those most in need.
The Seeds of Sustainability are Growing into Policy.
These examples are undoubtedly small and targeted, yet they represent a broader recognition of circularity’s value, both during and immediately following this crisis. Amsterdam, for example, has become the first municipality to adopt the Doughnut Economics model and the Circular 2020-2025 strategy as the basis for its recovery from COVID-19. Similarly, the European Union and South Korea have both adopted Green Deals as central pillars to their economic recoveries, both leveraging regenerative models and circular economy principles.
The Circular Economy Will Eventually Influence Every Productive/Destructive Decision.
Circularity can be practiced at all levels now and in the future, from disinfecting face masks that save lives, to deploying SMART regional policies and strategies that maximize resource use, decrease pollution, and create countless business opportunities.
How Does EFD’s Technology Serve the Circular Economy?
- Most current desalination plants use reverse osmosis (“RO”) where a vast amount of electricity is needed to pump and then force seawater through semi- permeable membranes to extract drinkable water. Approximately half of the seawater is converted to drinkable water and half is reduced to brine and returned to the sea. EFD’s technology eliminates the toxic brine, a definite win for the ocean environment.
- The toxic brine is converted to more water, doubling the yield from reverse osmosis.
- The toxic brine is also converted to salt and other minerals which creates additional revenue points.
- The larger RO facilities must have their own dedicated power plants to produce necessary electricity from the combustion of liquid natural gas. More than 60% of the heat energy is lost in this conversion process. Flu gas is typically the primary form of energy loss as heat is exhausted into the atmosphere. Flu gas can be diverted from the atmosphere and used to drive EFD technology, greatly enhancing our energy efficiency and, thus, reducing environmental impact.