Circular Economy, Random Neuron Firing

Christo & nappy waste

 

IMG_2209I was thinking more about Christo’s latest work in Hyde Park’s Serpentine Lake featuring 7,506 pink barrels of oil. That glorious pink structure represents the amount of oil needed to make 5,000,000 nappies.

That may seem like a lot but it isn’t.

Every day in the UK, 8,000,000 nappies are landfilled.

Every.

Day.

Said differently, every day a tad more than Christo’s pink oil barrel barge is extracted from the earth as oil, made into nappies that are used for 3 – 4 hours at a time by just 5% of the population and then buried back into the ground for 500+ years.

Every.

Day.

In the US where 50,000,000 nappies are landfilled every day we need 10 of Christo’s pink oil barrel barges a day to grasp the impact.

In so many ways human beings are awesome but we so suck when it comes to product design and we are just starting to feel the affects of our suckiness (technical term) now.

We can do better.

We will do better.

We have to do better as there’s no other place to call home despite Elon Musk and the Interstellar movie.

Circular Economy, Random Neuron Firing

gCycle progress

 

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After a very balmy London weekend, today I headed to Exeter for some hardcore composting discussions while Kim headed in the opposite direction to Brighton to meet our first trial nurseries.

Our gCycle project is demanding a whole new take on how we manage nappy waste. We have a plastic-free nappy and are now looking at different ways we can treat that waste to create a valuable resource and avoid landfill.

Ridan is the very best of British engineering. They have developed a low-cost, highly effective piece of kit that nurseries, community centres and even the National Trust’s cafes use to turn food waste into a really good quality compost.I met Dan from Ridan at  St Sidwells Community Centre, one of their existing customers to check out the set up. They are a great candidate for gCycle and trials will get underway shortly.

The move from a linear (take – make – waste) world to a circular one (regenerative cycles)  takes time but progress is being made!

PS: 7,000 oil barrels standing 20 metres high and weighing 600 tons emerged in Hyde Park this morning. The latest from Christo.

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Circular Economy, Conferences

Summary of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation 2018 Circular Economy Summit

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The overarching theme this year was how can technology accelerate the shift from a “line to a circle” (Linear to Circular). We heard from:

New Harvest – making meat but not as we know it.

Provenance – Using Blockchain to create supply chain transparency. Material becomes currency because you know the value and can see the value.
The Real Real  –  A NY – based online luxury goods consignment store with market with $700M in revenue after just 7 years. They are seeing a switch buying habits to people buying things that have a better resale price. They are the antidote to fast fashion as quality luxury goods have a second, third and fourth life. They will be the first billion dollar Circular Economy company.

Estonia – The country boasts an “invisible” Government. Embracing technology including Blockchain, citizens can vote from their mobile phones and can complete tax returns in under a minute. Since 2012 all citizen’s details are on a closed Blockchain and kept decentralised across 2000 locations. No one location knows all the information.
And Citizens can see who has been looking at their data. Meanwhile in Australia, I need a utility bill to prove my identity. (#CuttingEdge)

Estonia will be paperless in 10 years. They are also  working on AI policy and using algorithms to rework legal / insurance frameworks. One consideration is: “does AI get their own separate legal entity?”. In 4 years, AI will be fully implemented and that will see a 50% reduction in civil servants and they are all happy with that as they know other employment opportunities will emerge. Contrast that to Germany where civil servants are still guaranteed lifetime employment.

The shift has got little to do with technology. It is culture and mindset. It’s about defining the relationship between citizens and the Govt, culture and mindset.

China – That massive country. They have embraced the Circular Economy since 1997. Their approach to the Circular Economy is fundamentally different to the West as they started 10 years earlier and started in the middle of their Industrial Revolution compared to the Developed World where the damage has been wholly done.
The developed world pollutes first and then looks for clean up solutions. In China, they do not want to pollute in the first place. In their recently announced 13th 5 year plan (gotta love a planned economy), their Circular Economy priorities are:

(1) Bio-design of products – upstream
(2) Extended Producer Responsibility – downstream

Two unrelated random facts of the day: 
(1) 50% of Facebook’s workforce earn more than $240K pa while California has the highest incidence of poverty in the US.
(2) Fortnite, the game every adolescent around the globe is playing is pulling down $300 million profit every month!

It was another great summit with some really good connections made.

Circular Economy, Lamina Flow, Surfing

A second Circular Economy business brewing in the household

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My surf-mad, 13 year old son has his heart and mind set on designing a Circular Economy – inspired surfboard. He had his first conference call with Lamina Flow, a Yamba, NSW based surfboard redesign company this afternoon. 

Here's a video if what they are up to: 

Like me 15 years ago not realising just how bad nappies are for the planet, surfboards are dead awful for all concerned. The industry is yet to enter the 21st century with most shapers being a little bit backyard in their approach. The process of building a board with layers of oil-based poly foams and resins is just as bad as a nappy. And the average pro-surfer goes through 100 boards a year. And they do that because boards snap and no two boards are identical so surfers want to have choice. It's interesting to me that there is actually no perfect replicability in the manufacturing  process of a surf board. They are all slightly different. And they all end up snapping. Unlike say skis or snowboards where a complete break is unlikely. So the industry is ripe for disruption. 

Pity this afternoon's French, Science, Maths and English homework because it just ain't going to be happening. 

 

 

 

Circular Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

2018: the year we figured out we kind of suck as a species.

 

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2018 has been quite the year in the exciting world of waste management. I jest but as a species we really are on track to drown in our own waste while eating that last Avo on toast washed down with a skinny flat white. 

Thanks to the National Geographic, this was the year we all figured out plastic was not so great. It was also the year China said "You know what, Developed World? We are done taking all your "recyclables". You go figure it out". And in that moment we all realised that while we felt awesome separating our plastic from glass, without China paying for it, there is no recycling market. So in Melbourne and Sydney, container loads of our recyclables accumulate while the Government figures out what to do. 

In addition to that, last week the EU announced the phasing out of landfills by 2030 and with that an expansion of what is known as "EPR" – Extended Product Responsibility. Basically, if you make it, you take it back after the consumer is done with it. 

"A new component is the landfill reduction target. This sets minimum requirements for extended producer responsibility schemes for products such as packaging, for which a recycling target of 65% is foreseen by 2025 and of 70% by 2030. Across the waste spectrum, by 2030 the law obliges all EU countries to ensure that all waste suitable for recycling or other recovery, in particular in municipal waste, does not go to landfill. What’s more, manufacturers of products covered by the schemes must take responsibility for their proper disposal as well as contribute to the cost. The waste package also encourages the use of recyclable and reusable packaging". 

The initial focus is packaging but the next obvious step is the product itself. And that my friends, in a world of plastic is going to demand some serious product redesign. 

Related to this is a book I am slowly working my way through called Sapiens, a  great, if not disturbing read about the history of us. What is astonishing is how we have managed to really cock up the earth in such a short period time. 

200,000 years ago – First Sapiens rocked up

70,000 – Homo Sapiens figured out imagination

40,000 – First indigenous folks landed in Australia

12,000 – Agricultural Revolution

5,000 – Writing invented – yay us

Up until this point, the planet is looking pretty sweet. Then 200 years ago, we fire up the Industrial Revolution which was great if you were the boss but fairly sucky for everyone else. 

After 200,000 years of living in tune with our planet, we take just 200 years to take us to the brink. It's remarkable. The most "intelligent" species could easily wipe itself out in short order. 

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And on that happy note, if you're looking for a fantastic dystopian drama, check out A Handmaid's Tale. Season Two is a cracker with the Colonies looking a lot like where we are heading. 

OK, that post went kind of everywhere. More focus next time. 

 

 

 

 

 

Circular Economy, Ellen MacArthur Foundation

And now Luxembourg. Part II: The business opportunity.

The week was filled with back to back meetings. Our goal is to launch a trial of our gCycle offering with 20 nurseries as a part of our Ellen MacArthur Foundation's  CE 100 Co:Project. We are offering an alternative to the single-use plastic nappies that are the scourge of the planet. Each nappy takes one cup of oil to make and there are 29 billion of them being landfilled each year just out of the US and UK.  

As for the Co:Project, the question is, where to launch? We have opportunities in Scotland, the UK and Luxembourg. The focus is on Europe because unlike the rest of the world it seems, this part of the world actually gets the scale of the crisis that the planet is facing and have demonstrated the will to do something about it.

This week, we investigated Luxembourg and met with the Government (concerned about solid waste, the planet in general and providers of Grants), childcare provider Arcus and backend providers with technology to take our bio-based nappies and convert them into resources like soil, power and fuel. We have learned so much and are spending this evening digesting  it all. The country is leaning in on the Circular Economy and knows the linear approach is coming to an end.  

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Kim in control, doing a demo. 

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Arcus has a Reggio inspired philosophy where the very youngest of kids in their care choose what they will eat, where they will sit and drink out of a regular cup thanks very much. None of this "strap 'em in and here's your plastic sippy cup…".

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A place to play house. Kids choose what they do and when they do it. It's either anarchy or pure genius. 

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A pretend mini school to play in. 

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Natural light abounds. 

 

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Arcus Management and Kim at their soon-to-be-opened training centre to give unemployed youth skills to join the workforce including the logistics part of our project. 

 

 

 

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The Arcus team in the engine room. 

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Provide enough blocks and cities can be built. 

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Nap time. 

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Glorious natural light for little ones to thrive in. 

And now to meet with the people who can turn muck into money. 

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Food waste converted into biogas and then gas gas. 

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Engineering types helping us make gCycle a reality. Note the constant offerings we provide in meetings. 

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This piece of kit takes food waste and our material and creates gas that is sold back to the grid. An improvement on billions of oil-based  nappies landfilled annually for 500 + years.

And then to the Government…

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Tim Tam diplomacy. You offer Tim Tams and hopefully grants come back to you from across the table. 

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And lastly a Luxembourg health food store. Between this and the sheer number of smokers, it's a miracle they make it to 50. 

 

Circular Economy, Family, Luxembourg

And now Luxembourg. Part I: The Country.

After a mid-trip break with the kids after our time in the UK and Germany, the kids headed back to Sydney for school and the wife & I spent the week in Luxembourg, a tiny country with big ambitions when it comes to reinventing how we make things and and how dispose of things, aka the Circular Economy.  

Before we get to the business end of the week, we start with just how fabulously unique this country is. It is landlocked,  surrounded by France, Germany and Belgium. It is a mere 82km top to bottom and 57km wide. So two marathons would do it north to south and one and a bit left to right. At one point we took a wrong turn between meetings and ended up in France. It's that small. 

Luxembourgers kiss three times when they meet each other unlike the Frogs who go for a one-two peck and Aussies who just head in for one, usually awkward kiss. Given over half the population is born from outside Luxembourg – France, German and Belgium, every greeting moment is a cacophony of kisses creating great confusion. Also interesting to note, the daytime population of the City of Luxembourg swells from 50,000 residents to 200,000 employees who pour in. 

The old town is stunning and sits atop a sheer rock cliff with old fortifications. Below several rivers run. As a runner, it is a great place to be. They have a night-time marathon coming up. So tempted!

There are three official languages and English isn't one of them. At school they start with German, then French and finally Luxembourgish – a Germany-ish dialect. 

To my school French teachers Owen Hanson and D'Jo Hillaire, I'd like to apologise for the heinous linguistic crimes committed this week by me. "Ma J'ai soif je voudrais une Orangina" can only get you so far. To my Quebecois wife / co-founder, thank the good Lord you were here otherwise it would have been burgers and fries every night.  

 

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That lead bloke looks overly eager. With a 7pm kick off, the average punter will be coming home at 11.30pm. Grim. 

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Great running track down there. Getting there's a bastard but it's worth it. 


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So many of these fellas. 


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A city on the edge. 


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Old town, cobbled streets…just like the Rocks but with less convicts. 

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Gratuitous family holiday snap with special guest star, adopted daughter Kemana. She demonstrated an ability to end all the Civil wars in this household…destined to lead the UN.