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From Landfill to Goldmine: Canada's Sustainable Future is Near.

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

Did you know that Canada's waste rating was once downgraded to a shocking 'D,' making it the lowest performer in waste generation among its peers? But fear not, for innovation is taking root, and companies like Terracycle and others are leading the charge towards repurposing waste and creating value through product innovation. As we grapple with the challenges of wildfires, water scarcity, and the karmic toll on our environment, a crucial question arises: How can we collaboratively address the intertwined problems of consumerism and dependency on fossil fuels on both a national and global scale? The solution lies in circularity – an economic system that can yield win-win-win outcomes. By embracing circular waste and materials management, Canada can unlock job opportunities, empower Indigenous communities, and transition towards a prosperous economy while rapidly advancing towards Net Zero goals.


The reality is that solutions that tackle circular materials management practices now exist and are financially viable for all stakeholders at the table. Let's bridge the economic gap, foster innovation, and create a goldmine from the trash in our backyards.


AI Prompt: New Industrial Park


Background

In 2008 alone, Canada generated a staggering 777 kilograms of municipal waste per person, a startling contrast to Japan, the top performer, which produced only half of that amount. How did this happen? Regardless, the cause is not as helpful at this stage, since finger-pointing in a world where ESG is itself being politicized is counterproductive, and taking a look at solutions creates an opportunity for collaboration anchored in the very principles of conscious capitalism.

Source: Old chart by The Conference Board of Canada

In 2023, amidst another intense year of wildfires and water scarcity, which not only impact Canada but numerous other regions, the karmic toll seems disproportionately high. In the face of the converging challenges of extreme weather events, human displacement, impact to Indigenous peoples and demographically vulnerable populations, a crucial question arises: How can we collaboratively address the intertwined problems stemming from heavy per capita consumerism and economic dependency on fossil fuels and natural resources, surely in Canada, but also on a Global scale?


The "Win-Win-Win" Approach to Circularity

The solutions must strike a balance that creates job opportunities, empowers Indigenous peoples, and fosters a diverse transition towards a prosperous economy while rapidly advancing towards Net Zero goals both in the area of waste and GHG emissions. As many experts in this field assert, circularity emerges as the economic system that can yield the most win-win-win outcomes, yet the economic gap that currently stands at 91-93% (per Google). Truly incredible!


To bridge the gap and embed circularity at the core of supply chains and logistics, value chains must maximize the use of reused, recycled, and upcycled materials and compounds but also repurpose these materials to their highest and best use - and yes, scale is necessary.


Indeed, the best solution to waste might not be to burn it to generate energy or fuel, especially if there may be higher value applications. From an innovation standpoint, the goal is always to improve the process and reach as many win-win-wins as possible within both the ESG spectrum but also at the stakeholder level. Aspirational?



AI Prompt: Indigenous Lands


Art of Possibility

Now imagine there was a highly modular and scalable solution that was able to take all sorts of waste, from sorted and unsorted municipal waste, to roof shingles, carbon-fiber composites, PET, tires, and many more forms of waste, and convert them into new materials and compounds such as synthetic gases, carbon black, metal, glass, plastics, and others forms of useful material for manufacturing. And now, imagine that this came at zero initial investment to the customer, provided a put-or-pay contract in place for a minimum tons-of-waste generated per day by the municipality or region and for a long-term commitment and intent. What if the benefits of the operation were shared in the form of carbon derivatives (credits) back to the client(s) from the abated emissions due to the zero-emissions approach of the waste treatment, and in the form of revenues attributed back to the client from the resale of innovative new materials generated from this manufacturing process? Does this sound too good to be true?


Certainly, in the past, one might have rolled their eyes at the feasibility of such an initiative or service. But thanks to innovation and a concerted effort by financiers to tackle the wicked problem of waste and climate within an ESG regulatory context, this technology not only exists today, but can be deployed working with providers of "trash" with as little as 400 tons per day (TPD) of waste.


Prompt: So Exciting!


Collaborative efforts are essential in weaving circularity into the fabric of our economy and constantly searching for the better way which stands to remain a "best-in-class" (pardon the consultant-speak) approach over its period of deployment, due to ongoing process improvement and flexibility in implementation.


Governments, businesses, NGOs, and local communities must unite to create policies, incentives, and funding mechanisms that promote circular practices and support businesses that prioritize waste reduction and sustainable sourcing. One such example is Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) which holds manufacturers accountable for products' lifecycles (think batteries). EPR is touted as driving innovation in product design and enable responsible waste management throughout the product's life cycle, however I'm not convinced.


EPR has not yet shown clearcut benefits for value creation in the supply chain or of innovative changes in business models. Downsides also include increased costs, compliance burden, competitive disadvantage, shifted responsibilities, potential impact on innovation, legal complexities, and unintended consequences such as the crowding out of smaller producers which are necessary for competition in a healthy economic system. As with ESG more broadly, policy and regulation is necessary but far from the solution to innovation in product or service design which is needed to ensure future investment and sound economic returns.


If implemented by placing some large bets on this transition to a circular economy, Canada's investments can pave the way for new job opportunities, not only in areas like recycling, refurbishment, and remanufacturing, but in science-based innovation which leverages Canada's ancestral knowledge and applies it to its future economic development needs. Indeed, our Indigenous populations have worked hand-in-hand with sustainability principles for a very long time, and prioritized Mother Earth over over-technologization. We now have an opportunity to unify these principles of the science and innovation that ingenuity, diversity, and creativity which humans have been blessed with from the beginning of their existence.


To support this transition, skill development and training programs will need to equip the workforce with the necessary expertise and critical thinking to make impactful and long-lasting Net Positive decisions in this evolving economic landscape. Financial institutions and investors must naturally also play a critical role by providing financial backing to circular startups and businesses and demanding outcomes in line with their investment thesis. Through impact investing and sustainable financing, we can accelerate the adoption of circular practices and ensure that economic wealth generated by the circular economy is distributed equitably.



Your Call / Action

Whether you represent a municipality, corporation, investor, or NGO, we are eager to collaborate and determine how best to identify a path to sustainability which embeds circularity and aligns with your organization's values and aspirations for innovation, we firmly believe that the circularity opportunity lies at the intersection of environmental, social, and governance logistics. There, where waste is not merely seen as something to be disposed of, but rather nurtured as a #natural #goldmine where each material and component can be decoupled and recoupled to create anew.


We look forward to hearing your views on this blog and which other incredible new and viable (in the long term) circular solutions have come across your desk recently.


And of course, ping me if you'd like to learn more about this exciting new 100% recycling, 100% diversion, zero-waste, zero-emissions and zero-landfill solution and how you might get involved!


AI prompt: From landfill to gold mine


/Irina

CEO @ AMNIe International

irina@amnie.org


Spotify: AI ETHOS EXCHANGE


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