Alexandre Lemille: “Rethinking and redesigning our economic model based on the constant reuse of our extracted resources is a definite modernisation and positive evolution from our standard economy.”

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The Beam interview series, edition 35: Alexandre Lemille

CleanTechnica keeps on publishing some of The Beam interviews and opinion pieces twice a week. The Beam magazine takes a modern perspective on the energy transition, interviewing inspirational people from around the world that shape our sustainable energy future.

This week, Anne-Sophie Garrigou, journalist at The Beam, interviewed Alexandre Lemille, a promoter of the Circular Economy who believes that shifting our economies is not only good for the environment, but equally so for businesses and the people.

Hello Alexandre and thank you for your time! What is your definition of Circular Economy and why are we talking about “Circular Economy 2.0”?

The Circular Economy is the understanding of the eco-systemic metabolisms leading to the abundance of flows. Put simply, we should be imitating natural cycles as closely as possible. For instance, natural photosynthesis is efficient and available in abundance. Applied to our daily needs in energy, finding a technology that replicates photosynthesis using biological elements could replace all our needs for energy supplies for, for instance, the highly polluting photovoltaic solutions we use today. Circular Economy is about finding new pockets of growth within our environmental boundaries in the constant re-value of the already extracted resources we have today. And we have enough of them! This is mainly a matter of rethinking the way we grant access so that all of us can keep enjoying life for the many generations to come.

The Circular Economy 2.0 builds on the Circular Economy. Yet it considers that poverty is also an externality of our wrongly designed economic system. Like waste, poverty does not exist in nature. Like waste in the Circular Economy, poverty should also be designed out using the same “Circular Thinking” approach. Circular Economy 2.0 suggests that the social dimension should be a critical part of what is considered our next economic model. We understand the cost of a waste economy. The cost of an unequal economy is also huge. The top three Global Risks 2017 of the World Economic Forum are all about this: inequality, social divides and job losses. Let’s not replicate the same mistakes of our linear world!

Why should we consider that shifting to a more Circular Economy is a real modernization of our standard economy?

In recent years we have realized that our world is not only finite, but that we are reaching its limits far quicker than expected. Rethinking and redesigning our economic model based on the constant reuse of our extracted resources is a definite modernization and positive evolution from our standard economy. Endless fossil resources and exponential growth only exist in an industrial world we invented over one hundred years ago. The solution lies in the understanding of the value of our stock of materials, and how one can reuse these materials keeping their value at an all time high. This would lead to less CO2 emitted, less extractive activities, less energy required to transform our products and use them, more value on unused resources we call waste today, more value on forests as our stock of oxygen, more value on the preservation of our soils to feed more people, and so on. This is a definite advancement in the history of human beings.

What are the main benefits of this economical transformation?

The main benefits are first for the businesses themselves. Corporate risks are coming from many angles, but mainly it’s the access to the raw materials needed to manufacture goods. The challenge that businesses face is that we are either running out of some of the critical underground resources which will lead to a surge in prices for the years to come, or they are available but we should plan to keep them under the ground, unless we face the risk of going beyond the 2 degree threshold by the end of this century. Thus, providing a business strategy to increase business resilience while preserving our environmental services is the biggest benefit of this economy.

A first expectation is to see a constant drop in the CO2 emissions during this century while addressing the economic needs of more people on the planet. A second expectation is to release the pressure on our resource dependencies. The more a market grows, the more resources are needed. With the Circular Economy we will aim at decoupling this economic growth from the constant need for more resources.

Lastly, job creation. A Circular Economy could create many jobs if we design it properly. An economy where most unused resources are incinerated. As is often the case in developed markets, we only create one job for every 10,000 tons of goods produced. In an economy of the reuse of materials, the potential is rather 296 jobs. This is nearly a ratio of 300 times more jobs. In an advanced Circular Economy scenario there is potential for far more jobs. Given in a maintenance economy manpower is preferred over extracting activities  — which is relying on enormous amount of energies  —  the cost of such economy “valuing manpower” will be cheaper to the end consumers.

We all know that renewable energy is shaping the clean global economy of the future, but could you explain why and how essential the role of the Circular Economy is in this process?

Developing clean energies is much needed. But if we do not adapt our consumption patterns in parallel to this, we will be constantly running behind with our reliance on renewable energies. Our industries are based on a throughput model where economies of scale need to be reached to reduce costs, and product designs are made on the assumptions that fossil fuels are available endlessly. Using renewable energies in such context will not sustain itself, unless we redesign our products, services and the way they are either used or consumed with these new sources of energies at their core.

Read the entire interview here.

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The Beam

The Beam Magazine is an independent climate solutions and climate action magazine. It tells about the most exciting solutions, makes a concrete contribution to eliminating climate injustices and preserving this planet for all of us in its diversity and beauty. Our cross-country team of editors works with a network of 150 local journalists in 50 countries talking to change makers and communities. THE BEAM is published in Berlin and distributed in nearly 1,000 publicly accessible locations, to companies, organizations and individuals in 40 countries across the world powered by FairPlanet.

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