Desso sustainability chief calls for robust waste data to aid smarter recovery

Desso's sustainability director Rudi Daelmans has spelt out his vision for a circular economy by calling for a system that makes it easier for recyclers to extract valuable materials from products so that they can be reused.

Speaking at Carpet Recycling UK’s annual conference in Birmingham last week (June 19), Daelmans said that the recycling industry needed better information flows about the materials contained in products.

“It’s not only about ‘Dear Mr manufacturer produce and make your product in a way that we can dismantle it easily and reuse, rebuild, repair and whatever’,” he said. “But it’s also about the system around us, the logistics and taxes.”

Daelmans told delegates that it was important that recyclers in 10-15 years’ time knew exactly where all of the materials were.

“If we are so dependent on them, we should have a system that enables all of us to track down materials, the extractability of materials into products,” he said. “In the circular economy we will see a shift from focusing on products to materials.”

He added that material health would also become increasingly important if materials were going to have a second life in another product. “You need to know what is in your product,” he explained.

“You need to be able to design what the toxicological profile is. This is incredibly difficult [but] I believe we need to have a more adapted system that everyone can accept.”

Daelmans said that the main barrier to realising a truly circular economy was that the industry was used to thinking linear. He called on it to “think out of the box continuously and challenge the framework”.

However, he said that it was not only up to manufacturers to drive this forward, arguing that it was very difficult for companies like Desso to break “through the glass ceiling” because the economy was linear.

“We should tax raw materials rather than labour,” he said. “That means that recycling will be cheaper, easier and better because we have cheaper labour.”

Daelmans offered his own vision of a circular economic model shaped around cradle-to-cradle design.

“It’s about cascading as long as you can, which basically starts with reuse then cascading down until you have a product you can’t use any more and then upcycle it to the top of the food chain. The reason we are not doing this is because the system isn’t there.”

Nick Warburton

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