3rd Cresting Workshop – Lisbon!

The 3rd workshop of the MCSA-ITN EU funded project titled “Circular Economy: sustainability implications and guiding progress (CRESTING)” was held between 22nd – 27th of September in Lisbon, organised and hosted by Center for Environmental and sustainability research (CENSE) and NOVA School of Science and Technology.

It began with each of the 15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) from 8 universities across Europe, presenting the progress made in their individual research positions.  Following this, the ESRs presented draft papers for review and feedback to the group, during an intensive academic writing workshop.

With the central theme of the workshop being “Public sector and the Circular Economy (CE)”, invited speakers such as Inês Costa and Elisa Vilares from the Portuguese Ministry of Environment and Energy Transition, Natanael Cartaxo from the Ministry of National Defense and Sofia Cordeiro from Lisbon Municipality all presented the achievements and challenges of various levels of the Portuguese public sector in regard to CE related activities and initiatives.  In addition, Cristina Rocha, researcher from CENSE, explained several circularity initiatives like projects and practices with the private sector. In addition, a round table on Leadership in the Circular Economy and the role of private vs. public sector took place with some members of the Cresting advisory board such as Dr Carmen Jaca, Dr Walter Stahel and Andrew Woodend.


The workshop concluded with an excursion to the Esporão winery to showcase practical examples of circularity efforts in Portugal.  Additional activities of the workshop included training sessions on participatory research methods, including visioning, with the participation of Rita Lopes and Pedro Clemente from CENSE, and design thinking with Gulherme Victorino from NOVA IMS.

ESRs engage in International Summer School in Berlin

During the last week of August, the  CRESTING ESRs (Early Stage Researchers) Anna & Erik from Work Package 5 attended the 8th International Summer School on Life Cycle Approaches to Sustainable Regional Development in Berlin.  This summer school was organised by the Forum on Sustainable Life Cycle Innovation (FSLCI) and supported by the ESCP Europe business school.

The theme of the five-day intensive program was to share and develop knowledge on the available life cycle tools for regional circular economy.  Life Cycle methods experts such as @Andreas Ciroth (GreenDelta), Prof. Matthias Finkbeiner (TU Berlin) and Prof. Marzia Traverso (TU Aachen) held sessions focusing on e.g. material flow analysis or S-LCA, while regional Circular Economy experts shared their empirical experiences when implementing these tools.  The lectures were complemented by interactive workshops, at the end of which the participants presented their findings to the group.  Anna and Erik also presented on CRESTING and some of their own research work and were met with high interest in the project.  In addition, the social program of the summer school offered plenty of opportunity for connecting and brainstorming with an international group of researchers coming from the public and private sector as well as academia.

Researcher participates in the pioneering programme by Ellen MacArthur Foundation “From linear to circular”

During May and June 2019, Anna Diaz (ESR 2.2.) participated in the circular economy (CE) learning programme offered by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) “From linear to circular”.  The objective of this program is to provide a global community of practitioners with cutting-edge CE knowledge and skills and bring together an international network of young professionals of the field.  The learning programme consists of two core elements: the development of a CE project through online collaboration and attendance at a 3-day immersive workshop in London, UK.

The collaborative project developed by Anna’s team focused on the design of a coffee on-the-go circular system for subway commuters.  The initial team ideas were further cemented in a design thinking session run by IDEO combined with feedback from mentors.  The workshop days were full of outstanding sessions, such as a Systems Thinking lecture by Ken Webster, discussions on the foundational values of the CE, parallel sessions run by EMF experts on key topics and a hands-on biomaterials session offered by Materiom. The immersive workshop days posed great networking opportunities, not only among the ca. 40 pioneers, but also with plenty of invited international experts.

The participants also had the chance to attend the foundation’s flagship event, the Annual Summit.  This full-day event included numerous keynote speakers sharing their involvement in CE practices.  The connecting thread among the different sections of the event mimicked the process of transitioning towards a CE by building CE momentum, mapping initiatives and finally facilitating scale-up.  Accordingly, strategic sustainability managers from big multinational companies (Renault, Philips, Unilever, Adidas, among others) intervened, together with companies showcasing their circular business models (Riversimple cars, Gerrard Street, Vigga or Toast Ale), scientists (Joaquin Ruiz, Biosphere 2) and design and communication agencies experts (IDEO, Condé Nast).

Anna’s participation in the programme was a unique opportunity to join a global discussion, in which the foundation plays the essential role of knowledge provider and facilitator of constructive dialogues, sometimes participated by actors that expect divergent outcomes from the CE.  From a CRESTING ESR (Early Stage Researcher) perspective, it added a lot to an already on-going reflection on the position ESRs want to take in this transdisciplinary debate.  The transition towards a CE involves a wide range of actors from different bodies of knowledge and different values and thus, finding complementarity among them is key to overcome their own limitations.  While a bias for action is needed, there is also the need for providing CE decision-makers with fact-based knowledge and usable decision-support systems to prevent rebound effects.  This reinforces the core transdisciplinary approach of CRESTING, which aims at developing scientific knowledge together with diverse societal stakeholders.  All in all, the experience at the pioneering programme of EMF resulted highly enriching and we are looking forward to follow-up on this and more transdisciplinary collaborations.

icRS (International Conference for Resources Sustainability) – Australia (1-3 July, 2019) 

The icRS Conference took place in Adelaide, Australia and served as a platform for researchers and practitioners from around the world, with diverse background and expertise, to share the most recent ideas, outcomes, and practices on resource sustainability.  Santiago Perez presented on how to adapt trans-disciplinary methods to the analysis of Industrial Ecology projects in France.

As a result of this conference, Santiago Perez is now collaborating with a colleague based in UTDeft writing a paper on bibliometrics and content analysis of the concepts of Industrial Ecology and Industrial Symbiosis.

Exploring pathways from research to action at the 10th International Conference on Industrial Ecology (ISIE 2019)

ISIE Conference – Beijing, China (July 7-11, 2019)

After participating in the ISDRS conference 2019 in Nanjing, seven ESRs (Early Stage Researchers) continued their journey to Beijing to the 10th International Conference on Industrial Ecology.  ISIE 2019 consisted of four days full of intriguing parallel sessions consisting of oral presentations, plenary sessions and poster session, posing many networking opportunities.

The contribution from the CRESTING ESRs to the circular economy-related parallel sessions revolved around different topics: operationalising the concept of cascading (Kieran Campbell-Johnson) and the socioeconomic implications of e-waste in China and Nigeria (Kaustubh Thapa) to the missing links of the CE (Circular Economy) with corporate practices such as sustainability reporting (Katelin Opferkuch) and product data management (Anna Diaz).  An additional hot topic – metric development for a CE – was addressed through a critical review on evaluation approaches of CE at the company level (Erik Roos Lindgreen) and a review of sustainability impact measurement of CE through Industrial Ecology (IE) approaches (Anna Walker).

ESRs also attended a variety of talks by well-known ISIE figures, including Prof. Marian Chertow on the Sustainable Development Goals, Prof. Arnold Tukker on circular metabolisms and Prof. Yi Qian who spoke on changes and sustainability opportunities in China.  The context and international audience provided a good opportunity to observe the competing and divergent understandings of the CE as discussed by participants.  It was thought-provoking to hear about different interpretations of the scope of CE: while CE was commonly connecting to
mainly recycling- or other end-of-life solutions by some experts, others connected to a broader life-cycle-based understanding of the concept, in line with research of the R-hierarchy, see here.  On a similar note, most of the presentations on sustainability mainly concerned the economic and environmental dimension, leaving the social dimension somewhat marginalised.  However, a handful of contributions presented results and advancements of transdisciplinary research towards sustainability.

In that respect, the social science background underlying the ESRs’ work added a valuable dimension to the conference. Both their oral and poster presentations were well received by the group of predominantly Natural Scientists.  While Prof. Marina Fischer Kowalski, a sociologist, was one of the founding members and former ISIE president, the influence from Social Sciences appeared to have dwindled since her retirement.  A key discussion point related to how knowledge generated by the research society could be most effectively used by society at large.  After all, the idea to perpetuate the proliferation of research results as an end in itself did not seem laudable by ISIE members. Therefore, the Cresting ESRs felt their presence and research could contribute to making academic ideas more accessible to practitioners, especially due to the transdisciplinary and participatory nature of much of their research.

The participation of scientists working on CE was especially valued by the other participants. There was a concern among the community was that the field of CE would split from one of its main lineages, IE Industrial Ecology), and present itself as novel field.  While this option seems realistic from a practitioner point of view, scholars working on CE are very aware of IE’s contribution to the operationalisation of a CE, especially when it comes to design and measurement approaches of circular systems.  The principles of Design for Environment, Industrial Symbiosis, Life Cycle Assessment and Material Flow Analysis are vital for implementing a CE and have been recognised as such in relevant academic literature.  It may well be, however, that this knowledge on the actual heritage of these so-called new ideas is more limited among some private sector actors.  Nevertheless, practitioners have succeeded in presenting these existing ideas in a new light, making them more interesting for business and have simultaneously seen a rapid uptake in policymaking.  It is not the ideas that are new, but the angle of perception that has been adjusted to the eye of the private and public sector, in a way which actually makes these IE approaches implementable.

Through this enriching experience at ISIE 2019, the ESRs were able to network with researchers all over the globe and to diffuse their research results into a research society with a long tradition of CE related topics. These connections promise even more inclusive transdisciplinary research for the CRESTING project in the future.

ISDRS Conference, China 26th – 28th June 2019

The ISDRS (International Sustainable Development Research Society) was hosted by the School of Environment at Nanjing University, China.  The conference theme ‘Sustaining Resources for the Future’ provided an ideal platform for ESRs to share their
initial research results.  Topics ranged from literature reviews on the concept of the CE (Circular Economy) to trans-disciplinary methods for discovering symbiosis in a given territory and discussions about the role of the global south towards circularity. Kieran Campbell-Johnson, Kaustubh Thapa and Martin Calisto Friant presented on the circularity of extended producer responsibly systems for tyre recycling in the Netherlands.  The researchers critically examined the circular economy implications of tyre recycling practices.

In addition, Kieran delivered a presentation on his research project, where he outlined a research agenda for the post-collection uses of secondary materials within a circular economy.

Erik Roos Lindgreen presented some work in progress: an inventory and classification framework of available CE evaluation approaches at micro level.  The conference provided a great opportunity to connect to a diverse group of researchers working in this increasingly popular field, receive feedback, and discuss strategies for impact-oriented sustainability research and potential scientific collaborations.

Nearly 300 participants from all over the world met during the conference and discussed how to make the world more just and sustainable. The Cresting ESRs were very active networking with the multiple stakeholders present at the conference.

This has brought varied opportunities for ESRs such as participating in other research networks, collaborating in the writing of papers, and opening the possibility for future academic and personal development around the world.

Participants also had a first-hand experience on what China as a country is doing regarding the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals), as well as China’s particular approach to sustainability.  ESRs took part in a tour demonstrating local achievements of the Ecological Civilisation national project.  They travelled to the Lishui District where they participated in the ‘Healthy Lishui International Summit’.  Local authorities, including the mayor of the district, engaged in conversations with local and international academics on different aspects of sustainable development.

At the closing ceremony, researchers Martin Calisto Friant and Santiago Perez, were awarded the ‘Best Oral Presentation Awards ISDRS 2019’, wrapping up the experience of the Cresting team with exciting results.