“Waste and the recycling industry are not ends in themselves.”

The most important aspect of the two-day IARC 2020 conference is vehicle recycling, but this year's keynote speakers will also be taking a look beyond the current horizon.

For example, Olivier Rihs will be reporting on “challenges of the automotive industry in 2020 at the Geneva International Motor Show (GIMS)”. The Hamburg-based Professor Kerstin Kuchta will hold a keynote speech on the “circular economy for end-of-life vehicles”, while keynote speaker Murat Bayram, director of EMR European Metal Recycling GmbH in Germany, will talk on “challenges within the recycling industry”.

Last but not least, keynote speaker Michel B. Monteil, head of the waste and resources division at the Federal Office for the Environment in Switzerland, will present the state of the circular economy in Switzerland. We took the opportunity to speak to Michel B. Monteil prior to the event.

Mr Monteil, at the IARC 2020 you will be speaking on the circular economy in Switzerland. How do you exactly define the circular economy concept?
Circular economy is a new form of economics in which the various players, including raw materials producers, product designers, manufacturers, retailers, consumers and waste management companies, think across the entire production cycle, recognise their responsibility and act accordingly. Avoiding waste is an important and integral component in this system – particularly in terms of climate protection. With respect to the topics of CO2 and mobility, I would especially like to point out that vehicle recycling, for example, is not a sufficient answer. Here, the utilisation phase is three times more significant, which means that fuel consumption in particular must be given the highest priority.

In which areas do you still see a particularly urgent need for action?
There are still far too many products being put into circulation consisting of materials that cannot be recycled, are difficult to repair, that contain pollutants and for which scant consideration was given to disposal and recycling when they were designed and manufactured. In other words, a large number of separate points need to be far better implemented going forward.

The publication of the EU Commission’s planned Green Deal has given the circular economy discussion additional momentum. In your view, has it become easier to campaign for a circular economy in the world of politics and among the general population?
The EU has provided positive stimulus in this regard, which certainly supports and encourages our efforts to do so.

The circular economy in the broader sense comprises all measures aimed at reducing our use of resources. These also include promoting renewable energy, sustainable mobility, digitisation and a sharing economy. Is the role of the recycling industry likely to diminish through these policies because fewer raw materials are going to be used and therefore less waste generated?
Waste and the recycling industry are not ends in themselves. The transition to a circular economy is not going to take place digitally and from one day to the next. Even if the volume of resources used is lower, it is the recycling industry in particular that will reintroduce the materials recovered from wastes back into the economic cycle. From that point of view, a circular economy won’t work without the recycling industry. Particularly when it comes to metal recycling (iron and nonferrous metals), the recycling industry serves the key aspect of preserving resources, which is fully in line with the objectives of climate protection. For instance, recycled aluminium is nine times more preferable than newly produced aluminium in terms of climate protection.


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