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The Circular Economy

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Circular economy: and waste now becomes a raw material

Article published on 21.10.11

Circular economy: and waste now becomes a raw material
Using waste to create a recycled raw material that can be used again… That’s possible, that’s called the “circular economy”. Here’s a brief survey of a new philosophy in the service of sustainable development.

Nothing is lost, everything is transformed. This phrase sums up in one the circular economy. Contrary to the linear thinking driving the unchecked exploitation of resources, the circular economy offers a way of channelling all the flows so they reproduce the quasi-cyclical life of natural ecosystems.


The circular economy, a virtuous and eco-responsible circle

In this model, the consumption lines tend to limit waste and end up with by-products which are re-used in other production processes. In sum, a virtuous and eco-responsible circuit with minimal demands on the resources of our planet. A true solution-of-the-hour when population growth and its need for raw materials are proving exponential.

To limit its environmental footprint as much as possible, SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT operates a policy aimed at maximising recycling, recovering energy from waste, and preserving water resources. Henry Saint-Bris offers a detailed look at the concept of a circular economy and its challenges.


Recycling for better recovery

Depending on the type of waste and its recyclability, there are three types of recovery:

Materials recovery for ferrous and non-ferrous metals, plastics, rubber and tires, pallets, wood, waste electrical and electronic equipment. After various processes to treat this waste, the new material fresh from recycling becomes a secondary raw material, and can enter the production line for new products or can simply be re-used as is. The company France Plastiques Recyclage (FPR) has set up a Bottle to Bottle process that recycles a certain type of plastic used in bottles to produce new plastic bottles and food-grade packaging. In 2010, materials recycling put 13.6 million metric tonnes of secondary raw materials and compost on the market, extracted from 37 million metric tons of waste and sent to SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT for treatment.

Energy recovery: “This consists of transforming waste into energy, mainly by incinerating the waste, or landfilling and then methanising it (drawing off the methane). The heat produced by incinerators is now recovered, so is the biogas produced by the decomposition of landfill waste. This energy is then transformed and turned into electricity and/or heat.
The result: Of the 48 non-hazardous waste incineration plants managed by SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT, 45 have the option of producing power from this source. The Group generates enough electricity to light 2.8 million homes in France.

Biological recovery: This consists of recovering the fertilizing elements from organic waste (sludge, fermentable household waste, agri-food industry waste, green waste) to improve soil quality. Using compost in agriculture actually helps protect the soil by reducing the use of chemical fertilizers. One metric tonne of waste, put through the recovery process, provides 400 kg of compost. At SUEZ ENVIRONNEMENT, biological recovery specialist TERRALYS takes charge of waste from source to recovery, from collection to the transformation of the product.

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France Plastiques Recyclage (FPR)

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Updated on 22.01.13