If a loaf of bread goes stale you throw it in the bin, but where does it go from there? In a linear economy it goes into landfills - large spaces dedicated to excess waste. The European Parliament wants to move towards a circular economy model. Companies like Jaw Brew turn stale bread into beer. Better waste management and resource productivity yields more positive results for the economy and environment.
The generation of waste in Europe has substantially increased in the past years and keeps on growing. Still today, most of it is being landfilled. Landfill means lost forever. Ideally, it should not exist. A huge quantity of the food produced in the EU is lost or wasted, both throughout the industrial chain and municipal waste, which includes households, shops, and supermarkets. At the EU level alone, 40% of the bread produced is thrown away. It is time to limit landfill to the minimum and move waste practices towards better alternatives. At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, primarily what we do is provide the quantification of the potential for a circular economy. So we look at the advantages for businesses, and also for governments. The issue of landfill is the symptom of the linear model. It means that in the economy we have things that do not fit absolutely anywhere, and they have to be buried, and frankly it should make us think, is the system fit for purpose when most of the stuff needs to be buried somewhere without any hope of ever becoming valuable materials again? The European Parliament Committee on Environment recently voted to amend a European Commission proposal on waste management by increasing the recycling rate, limiting landfill to 5% and reducing half the food waste by 2030. The objectives that we have set in this package are actually very ambitious but also pragmatic, achievable goals. There will undoubtedly be investments to be made in the initial phase, investments in both waste disposal facilities, but also in technology and innovation, to allow the new products to have a different use. It is also true that if an initial investment is made, we can create new jobs immediately. The fascinating thing about the circular economy is the numbers. From the beginning when we created the Foundation, we started looking at the economic rationale for this model. We know the basic concept of a circular economy makes sense if you can design to recover the material, components, and valorize everything to its highest level at all times. It makes basic sense, but you have to look at the economics. That's what we did, and we have proven time and time again with the reports that there is economic rationale for a circular economy in excess of that of a linear economy. We were approached by a local baker called Alts, who have surplus bread. It is the circular economy that we are looking at. Our brewer Alick took about six months to come up with a really good recipe. Absolutely, we can deliver into Glasgow. We actually transform bread into beer. We are reviving a very old tradition. The first beer was made from bread thousands of years ago. Beer is basically made by steeping malted grain in warm water. We add the bread, the morning rolls to the malted barley, and what this does is add texture and body to the beer. The beer is actually quite interesting, because it has the normal characteristics of a blonde beer, but there is an unusual texture and flavor to it. It is quite enticing. What we are doing here is using food that is technically classified as waste, but rather than throwing it away we are making it into food again. If this is really successful, we are going to end up using all the wasted bread and eventually putting ourselves out of business in this industry, because there will be no more bread to turn into beer, but that should be a long way away. We are at the start of a journey here, so we'll see how it goes. There seems to be a really strong consensus about the direction to take, and everybody is around the table, private sector, public sector, economists, NGOs. The circular economy, as a goal to work towards, seems to be inspiring most of the stakeholders. I hope that it is clear to everyone that the circular economy plays a major part in the industrial development of our continent. It should be clear to the Member States that we cannot lower this level of ambition.