Published 2019-12-18

This post is also available in Swedish

Tiny steps not enough, big strides called for

After eight years, Mistra’s Closing the Loop research programme is now nearing completion. Two conclusions are that today’s recycling system is working poorly, and that it cannot be changed with tiny steps. Major strides forward are required.
A final report is coming soon. However, results are already being presented in the programme’s own Advent calendar.

After seven years and 13 completed projects, Closing the Loop is on the last lap. According to Programme Director Evalena Blomqvist, every single one of the projects completed has yielded new knowledge in the recycling area.

‘They’ve all taken important steps forward.’

Nonetheless, she believes that this development is not enough to attain greater use of recycled raw material.

‘Small steps forward are valuable, but also the hardest to take. That’s because existing systems are ruled by requirements, norms and standards, and organisational barriers. That also makes it hard to get ahead with small steps. Taking bigger strides straight ahead, instead, may make it easier to find good uses for recycled raw material.’

More results and ideas will be presented at Closing the Loop’s final seminar, which will be held on 3 March 2020 at Klara Strand in Stockholm. More information and the facility to register will be on the programme’s website in the New Year.

Bild på Evalena Blomqvist

Evalena Blomqvist, Programme Director of Closing the Loop

‘What I hope is that everyone who learns about our results will get a sense that recycled raw materials are incredibly valuable, precisely for the properties they have. So we must get away from the idea that we should look at recycled stuff as almost-new raw material. It never will be. Instead, recycled stuff must become a resource on its own terms.’

Blomqvist is careful to distinguish between the conclusions from individual projects and the synthesis that the programme as a whole has been able to make when the results from the various projects have been compiled.

‘One view is that all of us, without really succeeding, have tried to untie the “non-toxic and resource-efficient cycles” knot. Cycles like that don’t exist, so from the programme we want society to have the courage and knowledge to decide on risk-assessed closed-loop cycles. If we do that, we also get the courage and ability to manage chemicals in our environment. So Mistra Closing the Loop wants to start with the concept of “accepted risk” instead of “non-toxic”. That creates scope for innovation and new markets, and makes greater resource efficiency possible.’

According to Blomqvist, this has led to the conclusion that the existing recycling system does not work optimally. There is therefore less talk now of the goal of going from 1% to 7% recycled material in new products, and more about the need for us to start seeing ourselves as producers of recycled materials.

‘And that those who sow can also reap,’ she adds.

Anyone who is already curious can access the programme’s results on its website. Every day, a new insight on how to recycle better is provided.

‘With facts released in daily snippets, in the form of an Advent calendar, we hope to share our conclusions with more people in the run-up to Christmas,’ Blomqvist says.