Archives de Tag: Circular Economy



Washington, November 5, 2018

Some “new” governance models in Europe and the United States

This text is an updated version of my speech at the “Round table on Governance & Law: Challenges & Opportunities” seminar held at the World Bank in Washington at the instigation of the World Academy of Art and Science and the World University Consortium, with the support of The Millennium Project, on 5 and 6 November 2018

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Liège, October 3, 2018

The Jobs of Tomorrow… A Question of Intelligence?

What, therefore, are the key skills to be consolidated or developed? I will try to answer this question in three stages. Firstly, by mentioning the global upheavals and their effects on jobs. Then, by drawing on a survey carried out by futurists and experts from around the world this summer, the results of which were summarised in early September 2018. And finally, by a short conclusion expressing utopia and realism.

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Boston, April 30, 2018

From History to Foresight, Sharing Knowledge and Will

In order to conclude the symposium Grappling with the Futures, Insights from History, Philosophy, and Science, Technology and Society, hosted in Boston by Harvard University  and Boston University  on April 29 and April 30, 2018, the organizers wanted to hear about related organizations or initiatives. They wanted to both learn more about them and figure out the potential added value of these possible new additions to the network, which should not duplicate existing ones and should foster mutually beneficial synergies.

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Namur, April 11, 2018

A Wallonia Policy Lab on the foresight trajectory

In line with the European Policy Lab, the Wallonia Policy Lab represents a collaborative and experimental space for developing innovative public or collective policies. Both a physical space and a way of working which combines foresight, behavioural insights, and the process of co-creation and innovation, in other words design thinking, the Wallonia Lab has set itself three tasks.

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Marche-en-Famenne, 6 Decembre 2017

The place of small towns in the Metropolitan Area of Wallonia

Contrary to the ideas of those who see cities as the centre of the world, I believe we must gradually abolish the distinction between urban and rural areas through the concept of metropolisation.

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Reims, 7th November 2017

What is Open Government?

Where national governments have not yet launched their open governance strategy, they should start with the districts, cities and regions, which often have the benefit of flexibility and proximity with the players and citizens. Naturally, this requirement also implies that private organisations, too, should be more transparent and more open and become more involved.

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Liège, September 22, 2017

Learning in the 21st century: Citizenship, complexity and foresight

Who could believe for a moment that the skills required in the 21st century are and will be the same as those needed in the societies of the past? No one doubts that these skills will be supplemented by others. Nevertheless, our analysis is that however they evolve, foresight and complex thinking will remain necessary skills for future generations…

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Namur, 25th March 2017

The Premature Ambition for a European Political Community

Europe: the Union, from Rome (1957) to Rome (2017) – 1

The signing of the Treaty of Rome on 25 March 1957 was not an isolated act. It should be seen in two contexts: that of a series of plans dreamt up in the late 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century , and that of ambitious decisions taken immediately after the Second World War with the intention of restoring confidence, stabilising political, economic, social and financial relations between nations and bringing about the rebirth – or perhaps the birth – of true interdependence.

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Brussels, November 16 novembre 2016

Territorial foresight for new territorial and societal models

This paper was prepared within the framework of the COR/ESPAS Working Dinner at the European Committee of the Regions, on November 16, 2016, on the initiative of Béatrice Taulègne, Ian Barber and Karlheinz Lambertz.

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Munich, 1st November 2014

Businesses, regions and cities: cradles of the circular economy

Munich, 1st November 2014

In a paper called The circular economy: producing more with less, published on my blog on 26 August 2014, I had the opportunity to offer a definition of the circular economy, to trace the concept’s progress internationally since the 1970s, and then to touch on the practices which, according to the French environmental agency ADEME in particular, underpin such an economy: eco-design, industrial ecology, the economy of functionality, re-use, repair, reutilisation and recycling [1]. Finally, I contended that, besides the key principles of sustainable development to which the circular economy contributes, to become part of this process meant supporting policies which, from the global to the local, become increasingly concrete as and when they get closer to companies. This is what I will try to show in this new presentation.

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Brussels, September 24, 2014

The New Industrial Paradigm

It is commonplace, especially in times of economic difficulty or tensions, to hear it said or read that the crisis is not cyclical, but represents a structural transformation of the economy or society. What is being referred to is a paradigm shift.

An attempt at the clearest possible identification of the « new industrial paradigm » towards which we are said to be moving first of all requires an explanation of the three words of which the term is composed.

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Namur, August 26, 2014

The circular economy: producing more with less

A circular economy is understood as being an economy that helps achieve the aims of sustainable development by devising processes and technologies such as to replace a so-called linear growth model – involving excessive consumption of resources (raw materials, energy, water, real estate) and excessive waste production – with a model of ecosystemic development that is parsimonious in its extraction of natural resources and is characterised by low levels of waste, but which results in equivalent or even increased performance.

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Brussels, June 19, 2014

(Con)federalism in Belgium is not a problem, it’s a solution

This text is the fair copy of my paper prepared before and during the conference organised by Philippe Van Parijs, Paul De Grauwe and Kris Deschouwer at the University Foundation: (Con)federalism: cure or curse, Rethinking Belgium’s institutions in the European Context, 11th public event of the Re-Bel initiative, Brussels,19 June 2014.

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Namur, May 9, 2014

Territorial Innovation Systems for the benefit of businesses

In most regions that are undergoing industrial restructuring, despite the benefit of considerable care and attention from the major players and undoubted strengths, many business leaders and not a few leading academics display a certain scepticism in their day-to-day approach that is in stark contrast with the collective ambition to bring about regeneration locally. Much of the effort focuses on links, synergies and interfaces between research and industry, yet the issue of channels for the distribution and integration of innovation remains sensitive. We know that the tools exist, that they are available and often effective, but we do not really see them…

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Namur, February 2, 2014

From anticipation to action: an essential foresight path for businesses and organisations

The lesson taught by Michel Godet’s famous Greek triangle is that the transition from anticipation to strategic action cannot occur without the insight, mobilisation and appropriation of the foresight process by the parties involved.

Anticipation, appropriation and action are key concepts that businesses and organisations attentive to strategic thinking, and thus to foresight, would do well to keep in mind.

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Bucharest, June 27, 2013

Foresight and Societal Paradigm Shift, Towards a Third Industrial Revolution?

A short version of this paper has been presented at the 21st World Futures Studies Federation World Conference, Global Research and Social Innovation: Transforming Futures, Bucharest University of Economic Studies, June 26, 2013.

Pour en savoir plus…

Brussels, May 30, 2013

What is foresight?

One understands better why foresight frightens all those who want to see the system of former values, attitudes, behaviours and powers perpetuated. And if, by chance, they feel obliged to become involved, they will constantly attempt to control it…

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Munich, 1st November 2014

In a paper called The circular economy: producing more with less, published on my blog on 26 August 2014, I had the opportunity to offer a definition of the circular economy, to trace the concept’s progress internationally since the 1970s, and then to touch on the practices which, according to the French environmental agency ADEME in particular, underpin such an economy: eco-design, industrial ecology, the economy of functionality, re-use, repair, reutilisation and recycling [1]. Finally, I contended that, besides the key principles of sustainable development to which the circular economy contributes, to become part of this process meant supporting policies which, from the global to the local, become increasingly concrete as and when they get closer to companies. This is what I will try to show in this new presentation [2].

1. First industrial ecology and then the circular economy come on-stream

The circular economy, and especially industrial ecology, has been a reality for businesses, business parks, regions and cities for decades. The industrial symbiosis of Kalundborg (Symbiotic Industry), launched to the west of Copenhagen on the shores of the North Sea in 1961, is an international benchmark and recognised as a model for the development of eco-industrial parks [3]. Reference is also commonly made to the Dutch river and seaport of Mœrdijk (North Brabant), to Green Park business park in Berkshire in the UK, to the Grande-Synthe industrial area in Dunkirk, to the Artois-Flandres Industrial Estate in the North Pas de Calais, to the Reims-Bazancourt-Pomacle agribusiness park in Champagne-Ardenne, to Kamp C in Westerlo (near Antwerp) and other examples; in particular, practices by businesses such as pooled waste management and flow mapping are cited [4].

A circular ecosystem of economy

A Circular ecosystem of economy

It was following a lengthy process of reflection that in late 2005 the European Commission proposed a new thematic waste prevention and recycling strategy that defined a long-term approach. Several proposals emanated from this strategy, including an overhaul of the Framework Directive on Waste [5]. The new directive pointed out that although European policy in this area was based primarily on the concept of a ‘waste hierarchy’, waste should above all be prevented from the product design stage onwards. In parallel, waste that cannot be avoided must be reutilised, recycled and recovered. The Commission accordingly regards landfill as ‘the worst option for the environment as it signifies a loss of resources and could turn into a future environmental liability’. The new directive announced the incorporation of the concept of life cycle into European legislation. It promotes, among other things, the idea of the circular economy, developed in China [6]. Meanwhile, since 2011, an initiative called A resource-efficient Europe is one of the seven flagship initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy. Among the measures recommended in the medium term to support this development, the European Commission advocates a strategy of transforming the Union into a circular economy, based on a recycling society with the aim of reducing waste generation and using waste as a resource [7]. The Commission also notes the significance of the work of the MacArthur Foundation, including the report presented in early 2014 at the World Economic Forum: Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the Scale-up across global supply chains [8].

2. The example of Wallonia: the economic development agencies create eco-parks

As part of the Wallonia Region’s strategy of supporting the redeployment and development of the economy, its Regional Policy Statement 2009-2014 stressed the government’s willingness to promote cooperation between small businesses, in particular via groupings of employers or the organisation of economic activities in a circular economy and to integrate and develop industrial ecology in the strategy of all stakeholders (e.g. regional and intermunicipal economic development agencies), to bring about a gradual optimisation of incoming and outgoing flows (energy, materials, waste, heat, etc.) between neighbouring businesses [9]. This commitment was implemented the following year in the priority plan of Wallonia, the so-called ‘Marshall 2.Green’. It is within this framework that the government launched a call for proposals to develop eco-industrial zones [10], with a budget of €2.5 million earmarked for the development of five pilot schemes. These projects were expected to bring together a facility operator and representatives of businesses from the economic activity zones (ZAEs) concerned, with the objective of promoting practical implementation in the area through equipment loans. Five sites were chosen on the basis of project quality:

– the Chimay Baileux industrial park which, in partnership with the Chimay Wartoise Foundation, wants to use malt residue from brewing in methane production in order to cogenerate heat and electricity for businesses that use them;

– Liège Science Park at Sart Tilman, where the intermunicipal agency SPI has brought together Level IT, Technifutur, Sirris, Physiol and Eurogentec around a project for renewable energy generation, biodiversity and soft mobility;

– the Ecopole of Farciennes-Aiseau-Presles near Charleroi, where intermunicipal agency Igretec is running a resource pooling project relating to the rehabilitation of a loop of the Sambre by bringing together companies such as Sedisol, Ecoterres and Recymex;

– the project organised at Hermalle-sous-Huy-Engis on the Meuse at Liège, optimising the logistics of road and river transport, where Knauf is already using gypsum waste from the company Prayon;

– The Tertre-Hautrage-Villerot industrial park, mainly devoted to chemicals and Seveso-classified, in which eight companies (Yara, Erachem, Advachem, Wos, Shanks, Euloco, Hainaut Tanking and Polyol) have joined forces with the regional economic development and spatial planning agency IDEA as well as with the city of Saint-Ghislain, near Mons on the French border [11].

The latter project, ranked first by the Region’s selection committee for its innovative character, has made it possible to develop industrial synergies involving the exchange of materials and energy, and in particular steam recovery, the rationalisation of water consumption, the creation of a closed system for the purification and re-use of waste water, the development of the railway on the site and the associated river dock, road safety around the park and aesthetic and environmental concerns [12]. A whole process is also gathering momentum at the initiative of Hainaut intermunicipal agency IDEA and the local companies concerned (YARA Tertre SA/NV, WOS, Shanks Hainaut, Erachem COMILOG, Polyol, Advachem, Hainaut-Tanking and Euloco). By introducing a local railway operator with the agreement of the Belgian infrastructure railway manager Infrabel, IDEA is attempting to meet the needs of industrial companies and minimise road use. The intermunicipal agency’s purpose is to meet the needs of its customers and hence to improve the situation of the affected companies to ensure that they retain their connection with the area and maintain as much activity as possible there. In addition, nearly 32 hectares of land shortly to be cleaned up by the regional public company SPAQuE [13] and the 8-hectare site of Yorkshire Europe, which has already been rehabilitated, represent real potential for the expansion of an industrial ecology project.

3. The NEXT Platform: a regional framework

In June 2013, in the presence of Ellen MacArthur and a hundred industrialists, the Wallonia Region formalised the cooperation agreement that its economy minister, Jean-Claude Marcourt, had signed with the foundation created by the British yachtswoman in the context of the Circular Economy 100 – Region process. This strategic partnership, with which Tractebel Engineering is associated, relates to the implementation of the circular ecology and is part of the development programme and industrial ecology platform called ‘NEXT’, set up the previous year by the authorities responsible for the regional economy. As Ellen MacArthur noted at the launch of this initiative, ‘the heart of the circular economy is innovation, creativity and opportunity’ [14].

Accordingly, in July 2013, the Government of Wallonia entrusted a mission to the Regional Investment Company of Wallonia (SRIW), and in particular its subsidiary BEFin, for the creation and implementation of the multisectoral circular economy strand of industrial policy in Wallonia (NEXT), complementing the competitiveness clusters. This programme’s role is to ensure the structured, comprehensive and coherent deployment of the circular economy in Wallonia in order to develop value-enhancing projects based on three pillars: industry, higher education and an international network. Besides raising companies’ awareness of the circular economy, as stated in the priority plan for Wallonia, the task of the unit that has been set up is to organise the creation of waste markets by companies and operators, to facilitate the introduction of a label for eco-systemic businesses and to foster partnerships with foreign institutions. It thus involves intensifying and structuring support for innovative circular economy projects driven by companies in Wallonia, from a perspective of sustainable materials management. It was then agreed that a circular economy fund should be set up at the Economic Stimulation Agency (ASE), and that an urgent mission focusing on giving guidance in recycling and re-using building materials should be entrusted to the GreenWin competitiveness cluster and the Construction Confederation. The missions of the ‘short circuits’ research centre were extended to include the circular economy on 26 September 2013 [15]. In early 2014, the NEXT team was particularly involved at the regional level but also at the area level with the preparation of European Structural Fund (ERDF) planning.

The Regional Policy Statement for Wallonia (DPR) 2014-2019 vigorously reaffirms the Paul Magnette government’s support for the development of the circular economy in Wallonia in order to promote the transition to a sustainable industrial system’ and to support the competitiveness of Walloon companies through synergies between them, promoting the reutilisation of waste as a new resource [16]. The DPR confirms the continuation of the NEXT programme and points out that the circular economy aims to ensure the emergence of innovative solutions to help decouple economic growth from increased consumption of resources, for example, by helping companies to rationalise their energy consumption and favouring the joint use of material and energy flows between businesses and the pooling of goods and services [17].

Conclusions: businesses, regions and cities as stages for action

The circular economy is an optimisation economy based on business parks, economic sectors, and local, regional or international industrial systems. It of course implies a sound knowledge of the regional industrial metabolism and metabolisms in specific areas [18], i.e. the flows generated by businesses, and their needs and constraints. The challenge for the business itself is likewise considerable, and the process of raising awareness among entrepreneurs about the benefits of the circular economy has also undergone a real acceleration [19]. As we have seen, the circular economy, rather than being a Copernican revolution or a paradigm shift, brings together practices that contribute to the transition to a more sustainable and harmonious society: eco-design, industrial ecology, the economy of functionality, re-use, repair, reutilisation and recycling.

These things make sense because they are or can be actually practised on the ground. Yet it is here that the results can seem difficult to achieve. As Suren Erkman noted, writing on industrial ecology, when it comes to going into the details of how to change manufacturing processes in order to make by-products and wastes usable by other plants, we come up against some serious technical and economic difficulties [20].

Experience on the ground, including in the Heart of Hainaut, has shown that the only tangible achievements are those based on the partnership of proximity between the players and the long-term relationship of trust between businesses and local operators. It is with reason that Professor Leo Dayan, senior lecturer at the Sorbonne, has since 2004 advocated the introduction of centres for the development of industrial links at area level and local business parks for the development of industrial ecology in practice. He could see small teams evolving on the ground that were highly skilled, flexible, functionally versatile and endowed with their own financial resources. It was their role, he argued, to identify local eco-links and spot wastage and inefficiencies in order to generate partnerships between businesses, including local universities. Dayan rightly attached great importance to encouraging the actors in order to develop the necessary synergies [21]. This is the approach that was taken by the intermunicipal agency IDEA at the Tertre-Hautrage-Villerot industrial park, out of a desire to reconcile economic competitiveness and environmental performance across such a site. The local partners and resources that are mobilised then make the difference: business clubs, local residents, municipal authorities, the Environmental Safety Commission but also the University of Mons and local research centres such as Multitel, specialising in telecommunications and material traceability.

The Business Federation of Wallonia (UWE)’s SMIGIN project has demonstrated that SMEs can also work on an industrial ecology and circular economy approach [22]. Here too though, as also in the application of the extended producer responsibility principle, promoted in France by the General Commission for Sustainable Development, the point is to work to change attitudes and the culture so that the principles of cooperation and exchange go beyond the conceptual stage to become a reality on the ground [23].

The circular economy is definitely a systemic tool that takes the form of multiple practices. Above all, though, it is a matter of businesses and specific areas, in other words people and entities brought together on a site that is by its very nature bounded and restricted. It is in this proximity, if not intimacy, that practical steps first begin to be taken, because concrete action is dependent on trust, which has to be patiently built up and carefully maintained.

 Philippe Destatte

[1] Philippe DESTATTE, The circular economy: producing more with less, Blog PhD2050, 26 August 2014,

[2] This text is the background paper of a presentation named Creating Value in the Regenerative Transition given at The Future of Cities Forum, Imagine Regenerative Urban Development, organized by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the World Future Council and Energy Cities, Munich, Kulturhaus Milbertshofen, 30-31 october 2014.

[3] Dominique Bourg and Suren ERKMAN, Perspectives on Industrial Ecology, Sheffield, Greenleaf, 2003. – Fiona WOO e.a., Regenerative Urban Development: A roadmap to the city we need, Futures of Cities, A Forum for Regenerative Urban Development, p. 9-11, Hamburg, World Future Council, 2013. – A Circular Ecosystem of Economy, The Symbiosis Institute, (October 30, 2014).

[4] See Emmanuel SERUSIAUX ed., Le concept d’éco-zoning en Région wallonne de Belgique, Note de recherche n°17, Namur, Région wallonne – CPDT, April 2011, 42 p.

[5] Waste management is regulated by the Framework Directive on Waste (2008/98/EC) and is based on the prevention, recycling and reutilisation of waste and on improving conditions for final disposal. Waste management is also addressed – in a more specific and sector-based manner – in numerous pieces of EU legislation: the Directive on Packaging and Packaging Waste (94/62/EC), the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (2002/96/EC), the Directive on the Management of Waste from Extractive Industries (2006/21 / EC), and so on.

[6] Taking sustainable use of resources forward: A Thematic Strategy on the prevention and recycling of waste, Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 21 December 2005, COM(2005) 666 final. – Politique de l’UE en matière de déchets : historique de la stratégie, EC, 2005.

[7] A resource-efficient Europe – Flagship initiative under the Europe 2020 Strategy, Communication from Commission to the European Parliament and the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Brussels, 26 January 2011 COM(2011) 21final, p. 7. – Note that the European Commission relies on the Online Resource Efficiency Platform (OREP) in connection with the circular economy.

[8] Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the Scale-up across supply chains, prepared in collaboration with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and MacKinsey Company, World Economic Forum, January 2014.

[9] Déclaration de Politique régionale wallonne 2009-2014, Une énergie partagée pour une société durable, humaine et solidaire, Namur, Wallonia Government, July 2009. – The Rhones-Alpes Region has also launched such a call. See: Jean-Jack QUEYRANNE, Les Regions dans la démarche d’économie circulaire : un appel à projets pour soutenir cette démarche écologique industrielle et territoriale, in Annales des Mines, Responsabilité et envitonnement, 76, 2014/4, p. 64-67.

[10] An eco-industrial zone can be defined as ‘a zone of economic activity proactively managed by the association of companies on site, interacting positively with its neighbours, and in which spatial and urban planning measures, environmental management and industrial ecology combine to optimise the use of space, materials and energy, to support the performance and economic dynamism of both businesses and the host community and to reduce local environmental loads.’ E. SERUSIAUX ed., Le concept d’éco-zoning…, p. 17.

[11] Gérard GUILLAUME, La Wallonie a sélectionné cinq écozonings-pilotes, in L’Echo, 14 April 2011.

[12] IDEA : retour sur une expérience pilote de l’éco-zoning de Tertre-Hautrage-Villerot, Info-PME, 5 September 2013. www. – Le projet d’éco-zoning de Tertre-Hautrage-Villerot sélectionné par le Gouvernement wallon !, Mons, IDEA, Press release of 8 April 2011.

[13] SPAQuE is the regional consultancy firm reference on landfill rehabilitation, brownfields decontamination and environmental expertise in Wallonia:

[14] La Wallonie s’engage dans l’économie circulaire, La Wallonie s’engage dans l’économie circulaire, 13 June 2013. – NEXT : l’économie circulaire au cœur du processus de reconversion de l’économie wallonne, 18 July 2013. http://www.marcourt.wallonie.be

[15] Rapport de suivi Plan Marshall 2.vert, p. 231-235, SPW, Secrétariat général, Délégué spécial Politiques transversales, April 2014, p. 231.

[16] Wallonie 2014-2019, Oser, innover, rassembler, Namur, July 2014, 121 p. See especially pp. 5, 22, 24, 28, 83, 90.

[17] Ibidem, p. 71.

[18] The industrial metabolism is the entirety of the ‘biophysical components of the region’s industrial system’. Suren ERKMAN, Ecologie industrielle, métabolisme industriel et société d’utilisation, Geneva, Institut pour la Communication et l’Analyse des Sciences et des Technologies, 1994.

[19] See especially Rémy LE MOIGNE, L’économie circulaire, comment la mettre en œuvre dans l’entreprise grâce à la supply chain ?, Paris, Dunod, 2014.

[20] Suren ERKMAN, Vers une écologie industrielle, Comment mettre en pratique le développement durable dans une société hyper-industrielle, p. 37, Paris, Editions Charles Léopold Mayer, 2004.

[21] Léo DAYAN, Stratégies du développement industriel durable. L’écologie industrielle, une des clés de la durabilité, Document établi pour le 7ème programme-cadre de R&D (2006-2010) de la commission Européenne. Propositions pour développer l’écologie industrielle en Europe, p. 8, Paris, 2004.

[22] The European SMIGIN (Sustainable Management by Interactive Governance and Industrial Networking) project enabled the UWE to organise between 2006 and 2009, collective solutions based on a common methodology for the common needs of companies in seven business parks in Belgium and France: the measurement of environmental impacts, landscaping, and the optimisation of transport, waste and energy flows. The UWE went on to create a ‘sustainable business parks’ unit. Inform, Ecologie industrielle et économie circulaire : la dimension environnementale 2.0, Business & Society Belgium, 2012.

[23] Entreprises et parcs d’activités durables, Territoires et parcs durables, implication des entreprises : état des lieux et perspectives d’avenir, Matinée d’échanges, 4 April 2014, UWE, CPAD, 2014. 4 p.

Namur, August 26, 2014

It is Professor Paul Duvigneaud, whom I met on the occasion of a private viewing of paintings in a Brussels art gallery, to whom I am indebted, at the rather belated age of thirty, for a lesson on ecosystems, industrial ecology and the principles of what nowadays is referred to as the “circular economy”. Using as a basis the example of the old Solvay sedimentation tanks near Charleroi, a case I had submitted to him with the aim of provoking him on the subject of the preservation of natural resources [1], and the manufacturing process for soda, the author of La synthèse écologique (Ecological Synthesis) [2], suddenly made these ideas make sense in my mind. At the same time, in a clear explanation typical of a skilled teacher, he linked them up with my rudimentary knowledge of the concepts of biosphere and complex system that I had found out about some ten years earlier in the Telhardian thinking [3]. In this way, reflecting in terms of flows and stocks, Duvigneaud was already supplementing the cycle of carbon and oxygen, at the level of an industrial and urban area, with that of phosphorus and heavy metals. For their part, some years later (albeit still only in 1983), Gilles Billen, Francine Toussaint and a handful of other researchers from different disciplines showed how material moved around in the Belgian economy. By also taking energy flows and data exchanges into account, they, too, provided an additional new way of looking at industrial ecology and came up with specific avenues of research for modifications to be made to the system, such as short and long recycling [4].

Today, after a few rotations of the world as well as a few more decades of our biosphere and our local environment deteriorating, the circular economy is coming back in force.

1. What is the circular economy?

A circular economy is understood as being an economy that helps achieve the aims of sustainable development by devising processes and technologies such as to replace a so-called linear growth model – involving excessive consumption of resources (raw materials, energy, water, real estate) and excessive waste production – with a model of ecosystemic development that is parsimonious in its extraction of natural resources and is characterised by low levels of waste, but which results in equivalent or even increased performance [5].

The Foundation set up in 2010 by the British navigator Ellen MacArthur, an international reference in the field of the circular economy, clarifies that the circular economy is a generic term for an economy that is regenerative by design. Materials flows are of two types, biological materials, designed to reenter the biosphere, and technical materials, designed to circulate with minimal loss of quality, in turn entraining the shift towards an economy ultimately powered by renewable energy [6]. This is a system, as the founder and navigator indicated, in which things are made to be redone.[7].

Even though the concept of circular economy may seem very recent, we have seen that it is actually in consonance with an older tradition dating back to the 1970s with the development of systems analysis and awareness of the existence of the biosphere and ecosystems and what is known as the industrial metabolism. In a work published at the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation, Suren Erkman defined this industrial metabolism as the study of all the biophysical component parts of the industrial system. For the director of the ICAST in Geneva, the aim of this essentially analytical and descriptive approach is to understand the dynamics of flows and stocks of materials and energy associated with human activities, from extraction and production of the resources through to their inevitable return, sooner or later, in biochemical processes [8]. In a brief historical overview and inventory of schools of thought linked to the model of the circular economy [9], the MacArthur Foundation also recalls other sources such as the Regenerating Design of architect John Tillman Lyle (1934-1998), professor at the California State Polytechnic University of Pomona [10], the works of his fellow designer William McDonough with the German chemist Michael Braungart on eco-efficiency and the so-called Cradle to cradle (C2C) certification process [11], those of the Swiss economist and member of the Club of Rome Walter R. Stahel, author of research on the dematerialisation of the economy [12], those of Roland Clift, professor of Environmental Technology at the University of Surrey (UK) and president of the International Society for Industrial Ecology [13], the works of the American consultant Janine M. Benyus, professor at the University of Montana, known for her research on bio-mimicry [14], and the written works of the businessman of Belgian origin Günter Pauli, former assistant to the founder of Club of Rome Aurelio Peccei and himself author of the report The Blue Economy [15]. Many other figures could be cited, who may perhaps be less well-known in the Anglo-Saxon world but are by no means any less pioneering in the field. I am thinking here of Professor Paul Duvigneaud, to whom I have already referred.

2. The practices underpinning the circular economy

As noted in the study drafted by Richard Rouquet and Doris Nicklaus for the Sustainable Development Commission (CGCD) and published in January 2014, the objective of moving over to the circular economy is gradually to replace the use of virgin raw materials with the constant re-use of materials already in circulation [16]. These two researchers analysed the legislation and regulations governing implementation of the circular economy in Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and China, and demonstrate that, beyond the famous « three Rs » (reduction, re-use and recycling), this concept in fact leads to approaches and priorities that can sometimes differ considerably, in terms of nature and intensity, from one country to another. It could be added that within one and the same country or region, the way in which the circular economy is understood and interpreted varies very appreciably, meaning it can encompass a smaller or larger range of activities and processes.

Nonetheless, we can go along with the Agency for the Environment and the Harnessing of Energy (ADEME) when it includes seven practices in the circular economy [17].


2.1. Ecodesign

Ecodesign is a strategic design management process that takes account of environmental impacts throughout the life cycle of packaging, products, processes, services, organisations and systems. It makes it possible to distinguish what falls under waste and what falls under value [18]. The good or service that has thus been eco-designed aims to fulfil a function and meet a need with the best possible eco-efficiency, i.e. by making efficient use of resources and reducing environmental and health impacts to a minimum [19].

2.2. Industrial ecology

Broadly speaking, industrial ecology can be defined as an endeavour to determine the transformations liable to make the industrial system compatible with a “normal” functioning of the biological ecosystems [20]. Pragmatically and operatively speaking, the ADEME defines it as a means of industrial organisation that responds to a collective logic of mutualisation, synergies and exchanges, is set in place by several economic operators at the level of an area or a region, and is characterised by optimised management of resources (raw materials, waste, energy and services) and a reduction of the circuits [21]. Industrial ecology is based first and foremost on the industrial metabolism, i.e. the analysis of the materials flows and energy flows associated with any activity.

2.3. The economy of functionality

As ATEMIS points out, the Economy of Functionality model meets the demand for new forms of productivity based on efficiency of use and regional efficiency of products. It consists in producing an integrated solution for goods and services, based on the sale of an efficiency of use and/or a regional efficiency, making it possible to take account of external social and environmental factors and to enhance the value of intangible investments in an economy henceforth driven by the service sector [22]. The economy of functionality therefore favours use over possession and, as the ADEME says, tends to sell services connected with the products rather than the products themselves.

2.4. Re-use

Re-use is the operation by which a product is given or sold by its initial owner to a third party who, in principle, will give it a second life[23]. Re-use makes it possible to extend the product’s life when it no longer meets the first consumer’s requirements, by putting it back into circulation in the economy, for example in the form of a second-hand product. Exchange and barter activities are part and parcel of this process. Re-use is not a method for waste processing or conversion, but one of the ways of preventing waste.

2.5. Repair

 This involves making damaged products or products that are no longer working fit for use again or putting them back into working order, in order to give them a second life. In fact, these processes run counter to the logic of disposable items or planned obsolescence.

2.6. Reutilisation

Reutilisation implies waste being dealt with in such way as to have all of it or separate parts of it brought into a different circuit or economic sector or business, with a qualitative choice and the aim for sustainability [24]. The development of the resource centres in the framework of the social and solidarity-based economy plays a part in this.

2.7. Recycling

As highlighted by the ADEME, recycling consists in a reutilisation of raw materials stemming from waste, in a closed loop for similar products, or in an open loop for use in other types of goods [25].


3. Policies that go from the global to the local but become increasingly concrete as and when they get closer to companies

The inclusion of the circular economy as one of the aims of sustainable development meets a special requirement. Indeed, the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future (1987), had drawn attention, in its Chapter 8, Industry: Producing more with less, to the fact that if industry takes materials out of the patrimony of natural resources and at the same time introduces products and pollution into the human being’s environment. In general, industries and industrial operations should be encouraged that are more efficient in terms of resource use, that generate less pollution and waste, that are based on the use of renewable rather than non renewable resources, and that minimize irreversible adverse impacts on human health and the environment. (…) To sustain production momentum on a global level, therefore, policies that inject resource efficiency considerations into economic, trade, and other related policy domains are urgently needed, particularly in industrial countries, along with strict observance of environmental norms, regulations, and standards. The Report recommends that the authorities and the industries include resource and environmental considerations must be integrated into the industrial planning and decision-making processes of government and industry. This will allow, writes the Norwegian Prime Minister, a steady reduction in the energy and resource content of future growth by increasing the efficiency of resource use, reducing waste, and encouraging resource recovery and recycling [26].

A major tool serving sustainable development, the industrial ecology model is also, as Christian du Tertre points out, the model of the circular economy, which innovates in the field of regional governance: it is not only an entrepreneurial model, but is also interested in transforming relations between players in a particular region. Its circular nature implies the mutualisation among different players of certain investors and resources, both tangible and intangible. For the economics professor at the Université Paris-Diderot, inter-industrial relations are no longer solely a matter of a traditional trade relationship, but concern a long-term partnership that can lead to the establishment of a collective intangible patrimony: sharing of skills, of research centres, of intangible investments, etc. [27]

The circular economy thus appears to be a major line of development with a global-to-local structure and underpinning systemic and cross-disciplinary policies pursued at European, national/federal, regional and divisional level. These policies are intended to fit together and link up with each other, becoming more and more concrete as and when they get closer to the officers in the field, and therefore companies.

This is what I will be expounding in a subsequent paper.

Philippe Destatte

[1] Paul DUVIGNEAUD et Martin TANGUE, Des ressources naturelles à préserver, dans Hervé HASQUIN dir., La Wallonie, le pays et les Hommes, Histoire, Economies, Sociétés, vol. 2, p. 471-495, Bruxelles, La Renaissance du Livre, 1980.

[2] Voir Paul DUVIGNEAUD, La synthèse écologique, Populations, communautés, écosystèmes, biosphère, noosphère, Paris, Doin, 2e éd., 1980. (La première édition intitulée Ecosystèmes et biosphère has been published in 1962 by the Belgian Ministery of Education and Culture.) – Gilles BILLEN e.a., L’Ecosystème Belgique, Essai d’écologie industrielle, Bruxelles, CRISP, 1983.

[3] Pierre TEILHARD de CHARDIN, L’homme et l’univers, p. 57-58, Paris, Seuil, 1956.

[4] Gilles BILLEN e.a., L’Ecosystème Belgique…1983.

[5] Jean-Claude LEVY & Xiaohong FAN, L’économie circulaire : l’urgence écologique, Monde en transe, Chine en transit, Paris, Presses des Ponts et Chaussées, 2009. – Bibliographie du CRDD, Economie circulaire et déchets, Août 2013.

Cliquer pour accéder à Biblio_CRDD_Economie_circulaire-2.pdf

[6] the Circular Economy, Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Rethink the Futur, t. 1, 2013.

[7] Ellen MACARTHUR, Rethink the Future, L’Economie circulaire, Ellen MacArthur Foundation – YouTube, 4 octobre 2010.

[8] Suren ERKMAN, Vers une écologie industrielle, Comment mettre en pratique le développement durable dans une société hyper-industrielle ?, p. 12-13, Paris, Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer, 2e éd., 2004 (1998). – S. ERKMAN & Ramesh RAMASWAMY, Applied Industrial Ecology, A New Platform for Planning Sustainable Societies, Bangalore, Aicra Publishers, 2003.

[9] The Circular Model, Brief History and Schools of Thought, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, Rethink the Futur, 4 p., s.d.

[10] John T. LYLE, Regenerative Design for Sustainable Development, New York, John Wilmey & Sons, 1994.

[11] William Mc DONOUGH & Michael BRAUNGART, The Next Industrial Revolution, in The Atlantic, October 1, 1998. – W. McDONOUGH & M. BRAUNGART, Cradle to Cradle, Créer et recycler à l’infini, Paris, Editions alternatives, 4e éd., 2011.

[12] Walter R. STAHEL, The Performance Economy, London, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006.

[13] Roland CLIFT, Beyond the « Circular Economy », Stocks, Flows and Quality of Life, The Annual Roland Clift Lecture on Industrial Ecology, November 6, 2013.

[14] Janine M. BENUYS, Biomimicry, Innovation inspired by Nature, New York, William Morrow, 1997. – Biomimétisme, Quand la nature inspire les innovations durables, Paris, Rue de l’Echiquier, 2011.

[15] Gunter PAULI, The Blue Economy, 10 Years, 100 Innovations, 100 Million Jobs, Taos N.M., Paradigm, 2010.

[16] Richard ROUQUET et Doris NICKLAUS, Comparaison internationale des politiques publiques en matière d’économie circulaire, coll. Etudes et documents, n° 101, Commissariat général au Développement durable, Janvier 2014.

[17] Osons l’économie circulaire, dans C’est le moment d’agir, n° 59, ADEME, Octobre 2012, p. 7. – Smaïl AÏT-EL-HADJ et Vincent BOLY, Eco conception, conception et innovation, Les nouveaux défis de l’entreprise, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2013.

[18] Sharon PRENDEVILLE, Chris SANDERS, Jude SHERRY, Filipa COSTA, Circular Economy, Is it enough?, p. 2, Ecodesign Centre Wales, March 11, 2014.

[19] Economie circulaire : bénéfices socio-économiques de l’éco-conception et de l’écologie industrielle, dans ADEME et vous, Stratégie et études, n° 33, 10 octobre 2012, p. 2.

[20] Suren ERKMAN, Vers une écologie industrielle…, p. 13.

[21] Osons l’économie circulaire…, p. 7. – Thomas E. GRAEDEL et Braden R. ALLENBY, Industrial Ecology, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, Prentice Hall, 1995.

[22] Atemis, Analyse du Travail et des Mutations de l’Industrie et des Services, 28 janvier 2014. – voir Christian du TERTRE, Economie de la fonctionnalité, développement durable et innovations institutionnelles, dans Edith HEURGON dir., Economie des services pour un développement durable, p. 142-255, Paris, L’Harmattan, 2007.

[23] Réemploi, réparation et réutilisation, Données 2012, Synthèse, p. 6, Angers, ADEME, 2013.

[24] The conservation of resources through more effective manufacturing processes, the reuse of materials as found in natural systems, a change in values from quantity to quality, and investing in natural capital, or restoring and sustaining natural resources. Paul HAWKEN, Amory LOVINS & L. Hunter LOVINS, Natural Capitalism, Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, Little, Brown & Cie, 1999.

[25] Ibidem.

[26] Gro Harlem BRUNDTLAND, Our Common Future, United Nations, 1987.

[27] Christian du TERTRE, L’économie de la fonctionnalité, pour un développement plus durable, Intervention aux journées de l’économie Produire autrement pour vivre mieux, p. 3, Paris, 8 novembre 2012. http///