The GMT Group, the EDDEC Institute and CIRANO were pleased to organize a discussion with Professor Ulrich Blum, Director of the Center for Economics of Materials, on the theme "Carbon-based industries and the circular economy: Policy questions, scientific implications".
This meeting, which took place at Polytechnique Montréal on October 19th, gathered a small number of researchers to facilitate exchanges with Professor Blum.
Summary of the presentation
Among the most urgent problems of recycling – and waste management – are those related to carbon-based products in general and, here most specifically, to the recycling of plastics’ ma-terials. Materials from plastic of all sizes – macro, micro, nano – are polluting the world and methods are searched to reduce waste and leakages and organize a complete life cycle system.
The presentation addresses the general environment of a carbon-reducing economic policy and then explores the idea of a combined recycling and pyrolytic waste-management approach – the latter in contrast to existing combustion technologies. The most important features are an optimization of the functional design of materials, its relationship to consumers’ and produc-ers’ markets and the ability for recycling or deconstruction. This necessitates not only a simul-taneous organization and thinking of three design elements – functional design, product de-sign, deconstruction/recycling design that we call Total Design Management (TDM). It also enforces a digital optimization of value flows by mapping them into a digital world – the Ma-terials Data Space (MDS). As an important side condition, standards have to be set that con-trol specifications, qualities and testing methodology.
From a methodological point of view, the proper handling of such a value flow – from cradle to cradle – necessitates an automatized decision system based on self-learning systems. We conceptualize a combined merit-order and real-options’ decision system. We show that the existing modelling of costs and the necessity to organize efficient waste-commodity markets are crucial for the success of such an approach.