Sweden will be best in the world at the circular economy

Initiatives to increase research efficiency and to promote a circular economy are under way in Sweden and elsewhere. The challenges are significant and Sweden needs a comprehensive plan. A new IVA project aims to make IVA a platform for that.

At a seminar in Almedalen IVA presented its plans for a project that will bring current Swedish circular economy initiatives to a common platform.

“There is no vision for how to make Sweden a leader in resource efficiency and the circular economy,” said Jan Nordling, Project Manager for the upcoming project.

If all goes according to plan, work will begin in the autumn and continue until 2019.

In recent years there has been a sharp increase in awareness about both the challenges and opportunities of better resource efficiency.

“These days people see it as a commercial opportunity. Sweden is moving in the right direction, but things could go faster,” said IVA’s Chairman Leif Johansson.

Per Anders Enkvist, CEO of Material Economics, pointed out that no country has the perfect solution, but that Sweden is in strong position to be a leading nation in resource efficiency.

Property company Vasakronan is an example of a company that is increasing its focus on re-using materials more efficiently.

“In the past we were mainly aiming for efficient energy use but now we have a broader focus,” said Anna Denell, Sustainability Director at Vasakronan.

She pointed out that it is possible to re-use a lot of materials when remodelling. We could also make better use of offices that are empty at night though new types of rental contracts.

A company called Stormie Poodle is another example of a business concept with a circular perspective. Caroline von Post, who runs the company, collects discarded textiles from laundries. Most of the waste comes from hotels. She converts the textiles, which otherwise end up being thrown away, into premium quality bathrobes.

“No one did business this way in the past,” she said.

Ola Alterå, head of a government commission on the circular economy, presented his proposals. He claimed that there is still a lack of knowledge on material flows in various industries. He also thinks that new business models are an important aspect in increasing resource efficiency.

“Resource efficiency is often put in the environmental box. But it’s much broader than that,” he said.

His proposal involves forming a delegation for nationwide cooperation.

“This should perhaps be the responsibility of the Prime Minister, but it would also be a good fit for the Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications.

Johan Hultberg, MP (M) thinks that resource efficiency and the circular economy need to be present in all areas of politics.

“But there are conflicting objectives in, for example, the area of used building materials. So there are no easy answers to this question,” he said.

Ingemar Nilsson, MP (S) is looking for more cooperation between policy-makers and the business community.

“And we should be able to make that happen. After all, Sweden has a tradition of cooperation. I also believe that public procurement can play an important role,” he said.