Circular systems have been a crosscutting issue for the research at NORSUS for 30 years. Here we will give some examples of how we work with circular economy in our projects.
But first: what does the concept of the circular economy mean? The concept was used already in 1938 when Viktor Schauberger held that nature’s circular patterns could be used as a model for human organising of resource and waste streams. In 2002 Braungart and MacDonough published the book ‘Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things’ which took the concept to a broader audience. In 2015 the European Commission launched its first circular economy action plan. Now the circular economy is regarded as an important societal mission, both at the regional and national level in Norway.
A simple model for the circular economy can be found in Konietzko et al. 2020, who talk about narrowing, slowing, regenerating and closing material loops; meaning using less resources, using them longer, making them clean and using them again.
NORSUS has worked on better use of resources in circular systems since the 1990ies, increasingly under the term ‘the circular economy’. We will here give a small selection from the large number of projects we have done related to the circular economy.
Reduced consumption and reuse
We have worked with new business models, indicators generally and sector-related indicators (such as circularity indicators for pig production), food waste mapping and reduction, consumer attitudes to ownership, increased reuse in the infrastructure sector and increased reuse of textiles.
Waste resources – close resource gaps
Here we have had a focus on improved waste collection and increased use of resources (such as food waste, plastics, EE-waste and masses) for instance for use as new products, feed ingredients or fertilisers.
NORSUS has been much engaged in industrial symbiosis, especially related to the industries at the Øra industrial area in Fredrikstad. We were part of the founding of the Norwegian Center for the Circular Economy (NCCE) in 20217. NCCE is a national cluster that originates from Øra, where the companies for decades have engaged in better use of energy from waste resources and closing material loops by applying systems thinking. Ole Jørgen Hanssen from NORSUS has been a key person in the Øra network in this work and is currently a board member of the cluster.