Waste is the only truly sustainable resource

The ever increasing extraction of virgin raw materials is responsible for half of all climate emissions, 90% of biodiversity loss, and 90% of water scarcity in the world, according to the UN. The best way to counter all three challenges is to circulate more of the raw materials that we have already produced.

21 May 2024

– If we are serious about creating a sustainable society, we have to start treating waste for what it really is; the only truly sustainable source for the things we need, says Anders Kihl, Chief Strategy Officer and R&D Director at Ragn-Sells Group.

The general ambition connected to waste is to minimise it. This will not lead to increased circularity. In fact, it actively works against the transition to a circular economy. Instead, the main ambition must be to reduce the unsustainable extraction of virgin materials, and to treat waste as a source of sustainable raw materials.  

But going from a linear to a circular economy is not done in a heartbeat. It requires longterm investments and systematiclegislative changes pushing the demand for recycled materials.

Anders Kihl, Chief Strategy Officer and R&D Director at Ragn-Sells Group.

Ragn-Sells prioritises projects that both make a difference today and invest in the future.

– More and more people have joined the train towards a circular future. There are still some knowledge gaps in what is actually required for this to happen, but we are headed in the right direction, says Anders.

One example where a new attitude towards waste can be a game changer for a sustainable future is the increased demand for so called critical raw materials. This trend is partly driven by the shift towards renewable energy sources, electrification, and digitalisation, all necessary to counter climate change.

Currently, these materials are to a great extent sourced from virgin resources and from markets connected with geopolitical risks. The EU has responded to this challenge, for example by promoting recycling of critical raw materials. The list of what is considered a critical raw material is constantly growing.

– With wars raging and geopolitical risks increasing, we see additional drivers to the shift to circularity. Security, self-sufficiency, and supply chain resilience are becoming increasingly important. There are more reasons now than ever to expand our possibilities to source raw materials in a sustainable way, concludes Anders Kihl.

EU’s Critical Raw Materials

Since 2011, the European Commission has produced a list of critical raw materials (CRM) every three years. The list covers substances that are deemed to be of particular importance to the EU economy, but whose supply is threatened or uncertain.

For example, the supply can be determined by geopolitical factors, as in the case of rare earth metals where China controls 98% of the world’s known deposits. The list includes substances such as cobalt, copper, magnesium, phosphate rock, and phosphorus. 

Ragn-Sells view on Circular Economy

According to the UN, the extraction and processing of natural resources account for about 50 percent of climate change, 90 percent of biodiversity loss, and 90 percent of the threat to access to water.