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Why the Circular Economy is Vital for Our Industry and How Start-ups Can Help - By Prof. Dr. Helmut Schönenberger, CEO UnternehmerTUM

Christian Kudler / UnternehmerTUM © Christian Kudler / UnternehmerTUM
31 March 2023

The linear economy model, where resources are extracted, used, and then discarded as waste, is not sustainable. The world needs a new approach, one that is based on preserving and enhancing natural capital, optimizing resource yields, and fostering economic development – circular economy. Let's transform our economy and create new business models: sharing, reducing waste, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing, recycling...

The circular economy offers numerous benefits for our industry and society as a whole. It helps to conserve natural resources, reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, and create new economic opportunities. This is also the opportunity for Europe to redefine its supply chains in a resilient way that can operate for the long-term.

Moreover, the circular economy provides numerous business opportunities for companies. By using resources more efficiently, companies can reduce their costs, increase their competitiveness, and innovate new products and services. Start-ups, in particular, have the potential to drive the circular economy forward as they are agile, innovative, and often more willing to try new approaches.

However, the transition to a circular economy requires a collective effort from all stakeholders, including government, industry, start-ups, universities and civil society. Companies need to work together to create new business models, develop new technologies, and find ways to use resources more efficiently.

Circular economy is the key to a livable future and every person and every organization plays a crucial role in this.

Prof. Dr. Helmut Schönenberger, CEO UnternehmerTUM

The current crises, such as climate change and resource scarcity, have been critical factors that have prompted us at UnternehmerTUM to take action now. It's unlikely that we would have been able to make progress towards a circular economy 20 years ago, solely by looking at the available technological advancements. Today, however, technology has enabled significant progress in the circular economy, from the rise of electric cars and green energy to improved plastic sorting and recycling, and even material tracking. It's this technological progress that has paved the way for the circular economy to take center stage and is allowing us to move forward in a more sustainable way.

That's why we launched CIRCULAR REPUBLIC together with many great partners like BMW, SAP, Tengelmann, Prezero and TUM. Circular economy is the key to a livable future and every person and every organization plays a crucial role.

The circular economy is essential for ensuring a sustainable future for our industry and society. By embracing initiatives such as CIRCULAR REPUBLIC, we can conserve natural resources, reduce waste, and unlock new economic opportunities. Start-ups have a critical role to play in driving this transition forward by bringing new ideas, innovation, and agility to the table. That's why we are very happy to have so many great start-ups in our ecosystem. For example:

  • Made of Air: This start-up uses biochar, a carbon-negative material, to create a range of sustainable biomaterials that can be used in various industries such as furniture, construction, and packaging.

  • LibCycle Reverse: This logistics provider is dedicated to the reverse logistics of lithium-ion batteries, which is a crucial aspect of battery recycling. It offers collection, transportation, and recycling services for lithium-ion batteries, ensuring their proper disposal and reducing waste.

  • FINN: This start-up offers an online subscription-based platform for cars, which allows people to access a car on a monthly basis rather than purchasing one outright. This model reduces the number of cars produced and in turn reduces the environmental impact of car manufacturing.

  • Stabl: Stabl offers energy storage systems for commercial properties, which can help businesses to use renewable energy sources more effectively, reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.

  • TWAICE: This start-up provides battery software that optimizes the performance and longevity of lithium-ion batteries. The software can help to reduce battery waste by extending the lifespan of batteries and improving their efficiency.

  • tozero: tozero offers lithium-ion battery recycling solutions, which can help to reduce the amount of electronic waste generated from discarded batteries.

In terms of business models, the sharing economy is a prime example of how digital technologies have enabled profitable As-a-Service business models. By embracing this approach, we can reduce resource consumption, promote greater resource efficiency, and enhance economic and environmental sustainability. It is essential that we continue to explore and implement new circular business models that can help us to achieve our long-term sustainability goals.

Let's join forces and embrace the circular economy to build a more sustainable future!

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