We recently listened to Adam Walton on BBC’s Science Cafe as he explored the Science behind the Circular Economy. The article can be found HERE, but it’s only available for another 26 days, and we’re not sure if it will be archived beyond retrieval.
This featured Dr Gavin Bunting from Swansea University, Dr John McCrory from Repair Café Wales and Andy Rees OBE, Head of Waste Strategy and the Circular Economy at the Welsh Government.
This is a great Podcast lasting about 30 minutes and anyone interested in the Circular Economy (CE) can’t go far wrong seeing what’s happening in Wales. As we’re a Registered Business in Wales with a UK remit, we were particularly interested in this and we weren’t disappointed.
However, as you’d expect, we have made some comments and feedback on some of the content that was broadcast so you should relate that back to the item Adam discussed. The article will definitely help your average consumer understand a bit more about what’s going on in Wales as well as what CE is about. It may also let you see that THEY are going to be in charge of how you spend your money, which contributes to the businesses, but maybe we could consider a “partnership”?
Given some of the comments from guests and Adam, we thought we’d share a few other perspectives that should be in the mix, when understanding the Circular Economy.
- The dangers of too much knowledge in Self Repair
- SAAS – will it remove the consumers choice of donating or selling your own used products?
- Will the Circular Economy actually increase poverty?
You might find a few solution suggestions as well, so read on!
Is there a hidden risk in Self Repair?
For the record, we fully support the Right to Repair Movement. However, there are inherent risks in any Electrical Repair, and if we’re not careful we’re in danger of creating a new network of unaccountable repairers, and many more potential problems with consumer trust such as we’ve highlighted to the EU and British Standards. As society leans towards more circular economy, people doing repair will most likely look for incomes with their new found skills. It’s the nature of the beast and quite probable these people would have had no previous proven skills or qualifications. Some products repaired by people without recognised or accountable standards, could then enter homes and may then result in unforeseen circumstances! Where does that leave the consumer. Repair Cafes are very clear (to their credit) on where their limited accountability lies in their own model, but consideration should be given to the point we’re raising here.
Furthermore and perhaps not generally known, manufacturers for instance have a wide range of parts, some that are actually the same part, but themselves have different part numbers. This information isn’t available to the public and we’re a long way from obtaining co-operation and trust from them, but an independent standard aligned to safety, circular economy and community wouldn’t be a bad place to start. Its one of the reasons we are engaged with the Office of Product Safety Standards, and the UK Government who are also alongside the Manufacturers of Appliances Trade Association, AMDEA.
Where Repair Cafes for instance, struggle to get such parts, we can safely build local stocks through Waste Prevention, and potentially give consumers in communities, additional revenues to sustain our Volunteer Model to include more repair across all Repairable streams, and not just White Goods within our remit.
An Island and a World with no Raw Materials
Recovery of the materials when an item has reached end of life, is costly and even more so when it’s shipped abroad and sold back to us in the form of a new Appliance. Its definitely not the most cost effective financial or environmentally friendly Circular model. We are remember, an island in the UK and resources of critical raw materials used for Electrical appliances are depleting in many parts of the world. We may become too reliant on places like China, Russia, Brazil and the USA to name a few, where even there it’s going to run out eventually as consumerism grows alongside population growth. There are many intrinsic values in keeping them in the UK and in working with EEESafe model, the consumer does have the potential to be a partner at the right price and in the right place. Income streams and materials may be harder to find in the future, particularly to the lower skills sector and here is a model that can help to address this, when community take up reaches the correct levels. Values such as environmental, community, manufacturing, sustainability and Social Justice are all clearly linked to income generation for all stakeholders but citizens need to be placed at the heart of a Circular Model, if we’re going make the impacts we must, to help sustain and save our planet. We could get this wrong if we only include Businesses so we must include and educate consumers of the influence and part they can play, and at the same time really work together to reduce the Wealth and Poverty divide. Every opportunity we now have could all be lost or severely impacted due because of a growing population and the consumer demands of a Digital Age so we need to educate them of the value of the Material streams that are resources for them and the survival of their generations. To illustrate the dichotomy, why does Sky do so much to educate us on Plastic Waste and it’s harm, when on the other hand, they provide mobile phone plans that encourage you to buy the latest phones. Clearly we’ve got some way to go in bringing the drive for personal and corporate wealth, commonly known to the average citizen as “greed”. The EU are already planning how to ensure supply for their Members when it comes to valuable materials for the future.
With the advance of the Robots, it’s likely some jobs will disappear at the lower skill levels, but there will be a need for “local” Robot Repairs of course! The same material requirement will have to be found if we’re going to make the Robots, Repair them and create many other consumer goods. In our model we propose locally sorted material in their own online community shop, being sold as a shared value, back to manufacturers to provide incomes in their own neighbourhoods as a reward for the efforts. We factored in this into our model using Material Collection Groups and other community Apps, tied into the LocalitEEE App where materials can be sold to the highest bidder through Community Owned Smart Bins. This would allocate Consumer Carbon Savings, joint consumer revenues and other metrics to each individual community that could be shared with Local Authorities, in a partnership structure readily available and join up in citizen and council led CE strategies. More detail can be found HERE. Government Policies are geared towards repair and Zero Waste, so Citizen Engagement can only help, and lower the costs of managing it for everyone.
SAAS (Selling As A Service). The old Radio Rentals Model
Gavin Buntin of Swansea University discussed this. This is really about Renting or leasing goods to consumers which we know has started or being viewed in some businesses, and in our view will likely reduce disposable income to any family. SAAS is becoming the old Radio Rentals model known by those of a certain age, and as far as we can tell it’s clearly not taking into account the reported 14 Million in the UK living in Poverty We are clearly a nation of huge debt which you will be able to find on the internet, if you need any proof. This model could just be kicking the inevitable down the road, at the expense of more poverty, and richer investors, linked to a monetary system that is way outdated and has no idea how it’s going to end. (Doughnut Economics)
We know that Manufacturers do not make enough parts as well, which forces people to create waste and purchase a replacement. and that contributes to needing a new lease or upgrade your “service”, and which will most likely cost you more and continue to link you to a rolled up rate of interest, “fueled by the Currency Markets”, which is a completely outdated model not fit for now or the future if we’re to see the end of poverty. EEESafe is going to offer local parts, taken from Appliances through a safe dismantling local certification, and make them available in the LocaliTEEE online Community shop. That’s going to help reduce debt, waste and Carbon emissions as well as provide local work. Better still, we intend to increase majority financial returns to the Communities that take more ownership of the LocalitEEE Model.
A leased model could also take away a consumer right to choose what they do with their purchases, which could include donating it locally or even selling it for a consumers own financial needs or to support another repair from a Certified/Qualifed Local Repairer. With EEESafe in this model, selling an item creates a ring-fenced community cash pot and local currency managed by the App and distributes it democratically where there is community need identified by the local citizens. Ideas like ours can only help build Thriving Communities, such as explained in Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, something very closely aligned with our Full Community Model. Kate has written it, and we were developing it long before the book, and there’s room to draw even closer, once Community Ownership engages with us.
Having an extremely Local Repairer person is a much more efficient model as repair is better than recycling, with Design being top of the heirarchy. Manufacturers can support this model, providing they know of reputable and accountable repairers, such as we see in the EEESafe Model. If Manufacturers or Retailers don’t take this approach, one must question their conviction and contribution to solving the problem, even with better designed appliances. The parts availability would localise over time in the model, and therefore provide added income and economic development at the macro localitEEE level, working in co-ordinated community groups that we can provide.
Consider what is there to stop local people buying a Leased Product outright and new and then sub leasing it on to the local community. A simple method we have factored it to help sustain and allow the local people to thrive by delivering accountable services, and evidence delivery of valuable outcomes tackling all our core objectives and Gov policies. Nothing should stop this happening in a democratic world that seeks innovation and entrepreneurship. If anyone or thing were to interfere in this local development mode, then again we have to question their “Circular intentions” unless they can evidence how they take into account the needs of local people and their lack of income. To us, this SAAS model is a Sticking Plaster Model, because consumption of all products needs to be addressed to thrive in the “Doughnut”. We all need to look at the drivers behind such models as well so we can clearly identify where Greed could be fuel that is driving poverty growth. The Planet belongs to us all and only more accountable partnership can help deliver equality, which should help us view investors (the community) and manufacturers as true partners. We need each other, and a Transition Model to reach those objectives which is the core of our model in a truly scientific and societal way.
Who’s in charge of the Planet?
In the current society we live in, which we believe is driven by the outdated GDP Model, consumption is in the hands of the rich or the investor who wants to make more money. People who can see potential, can see jobs disappearing, but the answer isn’t more isolation or more greed. It’s found by us all taking risks and doing it in partnership. See this article from the WEEE Forum about GDP being the wrong measure. However, bear in mind that WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is core to their forum and members and their partners. Partners such as (Applia) who are an EU Organisation promoting more sales of White Goods, with Appliance Organisations at its head, who are IOT mad and keen to operate SAAS models. Partnerships like this have the potential to ensure that WEEE Forum Members can help get the WEEE back to the Manufacturers for refurbishing, reprocessing or recycling. A Circular model in a Circular world, which wouldn’t be very efficient as products will cost more financially, put jobs elsewhere and contribute to more environmental cost. Applia are also struggling to convince us they really care about the planet. How do they square the circle of their own Green Challenge, when every new appliance means we have more waste? We feel that their own Circular Economy Policy, it is found wanting in this respect and whilst the Eco Design Directive is coming at last, it’s still failing to address the bigger societal picture. We can’t wait forever, and Extinction Rebellion is a good indication of that.
As consumers then, shouldn’t we have a choice about what we do with our purchases? Will we ? That’s the questions we need to ask ourselves in these early stages. Here’s how it works today. You want something, you have to pay for it and enough profit needs to be made for those who have a lot of money already. This is decided by their own their own personal objectives and must match the lifestyle they want and of course they provide jobs, but where? Not in our communities where the greatest potential lies. Don’t get me wrong, we need these people, but more importantly today, we need people who want to transition to a true sustainable world, before we ruin the current one beyond redemption. This should be a partnership, and SAAS needs be really in the hands of the citizen if it has any place. Why, because you can influence who you want to be your supplier, and do so because you choose through transparency, who you know is genuinely committed to this and future generations, and will reduce their own demands and lifestyles to help. We need to become a Partnership with Businesses and Citizens both Investing in their community, by choosing wisely and collectively and be willing to evidence this to each other. Something again, we have designed into our model.
Intelligent Design is crucial to the new Sustainable World of course, but lets place Community at the heart of repair and refurbishment by installing the skills and tools of ownership into each one. Communities can work with Manufacturers and feed back through those appointed locally, product information development and safety in many areas, where everyone can be the winners. Huge reductions in Waste Management, and consumer data can be fed back in our model, which has huge scaleability across multiple product streams, and puts income and incentives for all, including the poorest of people where they live.
This is how we are starting with our White Goods Project, but the same can be done when we bring in other streams like Phones, Printers, Computers, Cameras etc, even to the point of sharing and repairing, through bartering using a Currency that is outside of any banking system, and could be used internationally and owned by the citizens of the world.
EEESafe has been developing such a model with a wider holistic approach, starting with its Appliance Safety Register whose updated model is due to launch later this year. We have been previously invited to participate in a German initiated EU H2020 5.5M Euro project over 3 countries, and also received an offer of £2M from Centrica to scale up the model, so it is clear that others believe there is mileage in this award winning new Social Business concept. We do have one other £4Bn company interested in testing the whole model so EEESafe cannot rest on it’s laurels, but is currently looking to work with partners so that the opportunity it has, does not slip too far from it’s grasp and it’s aims to give generously and support more community ownership.
EEESafe could also build from grass roots engagement, because by simply growing Citizen Engagement and making homes safer, the structure can be self funded thanks to the Charitable Model at the core of its design. Through it’s transparent giving EEESafe as a positioned Regulatory organisation for White Goods Repairs, would become a company of choice when it’s important for citizens to know where their money goes. Buying EEECoins, puts 75% Cash of the purchase back to the community and supports local need and growth. You access that system, simply by Registering your Appliance and it provides a a multi solution system, fully linked to existing Government objectives and policies. In short, Everyone wins!
Already engaged with the UK Government through the Dept of BEIS and the new Office of Product Safety and Standards (OPSS), it is hoped to find further support of the common objectives of all. We continue to meet regularly.
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