Global Circular Economy Best Practices - A Workshop for the Government of Rwanda
The World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF) 2022 was held for the very first time in Africa and the global south from the 6th to the 8th of December 2022 in Kigali, Rwanda. The annual global collaboration event offers a valuable opportunity for African countries and the entire world to move toward an inclusive, low-carbon, and climate-resilient economy while addressing pressing societal issues. The circular economy is a new, more robust economic model that Africa can help the globe adopt.
After attending the WCEF2022 and participating in an Accelerator Session titled “A Global Roadmap for an Inclusive Circular Economy”, our co-founders Apporva Arya (CEO) and Arpit Bhutani (COO) along with Glen Wilson, Programme Management Officer at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), hosted a workshop on circular economy for the Government of Rwanda on the 9th of December. The one-and-a-half-hour workshop began with an introduction to the circular economy, followed by a discussion of circular economy best practices in the agriculture and electronics sectors. To conclude our co-founders introduced the Circular Innovation Lab’s work in the field and some of our conducted projects and opened the space for a Q&A session. The workshop counted the participation of representatives from the Smart Cities team from the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) of Rwanda and their implementing agency called RISA, the City of Kigali and the Chief Digital Officers from the Ministry of Infrastructure of Rwanda, the Ministry of Agriculture of Rwanda, the Ministry of Environment of Rwanda, and the Ministry of Trade & Industry & Education of Rwanda.
The workshop helped the audience understand what circular economy is. The session stressed the fact that by transitioning to a circular economy, we move from a linear take-make-dispose model to a restorative and regenerative circular model. Two presented case studies on Evoware and MUD Jeans helped illustrate the industry applications of a circular economy.
Following this introduction, the focus of the workshop moved towards the electronics sector. A few related best practices were outlined such as creating an integrated framework of standards to ensure the eco-design of electronics, re-looping components and materials in manufacturing, as well as reducing waste and improving waste management. The industry application of these practices was exemplified by a case study on Pay-per-lux by Phillips and how the organisation has reduced energy consumption by 50% and increased the lifetime of their lights by 75%. The session also highlighted that having effective Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) policies in place can encourage product eco-design, and waste reduction at the source, and support the attainment of recycling and material management. This was illustrated with a study that Circular Innovation Lab is currently conducting on “Items Shipped for Reuse and EPR Fees” for the European Environmental Bureau. The goal is for EPR fees to accompany products that are shipped beyond the EU for reuse to ensure adequate end-of-life management of these.
Following that, the workshop's emphasis shifted from a linear supply chain to regenerative agriculture and all those components of agriculture that are connected through a web—a network of entities that grow, enhance, exchange, distribute, and consume goods and services. A case study on the rice-duck farming practice from Japan was presented, which refers to Takao Furuno's "Aigamo method". Ducks are introduced to rice fields and eliminate weeds and insects from them. Practising this method provides the land with natural fertiliser and strengthens rice seedlings by providing oxygen to the water.
The workshop participants were then explained how innovation can help the transition to a circular economy. New, creative circular business models built on waste reduction and resource efficiency raise revenue, save costs, and generate new jobs. The development of innovative design concepts can help reinvest resources in economic and environmental systems. In addition to making it easier for circular economy enterprises to acquire financing, the improved technical and financial consulting services can enhance the adoption of circular economy technology and business models.
The workshop also touched upon the circular innovation process that Circular Innovation Lab follows. The 4-step approach includes - 1. Stakeholder engagement, 2. Co-design and research, 3. Ideation, prototyping and validation, and 4. Pilot and Scale-up. During the workshopApoorva and Arpit also stressed that the transition to a circular economy requires collaboration across a multitude of stakeholders. The workshop concluded with an interactive discussion of the outlined topics and a Q&A session.