Circular Solutions for city development


“Our struggle for global sustainability will be won or lost in cities”.

This statement, made by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon prior to Rio+20 is still valid and was highlighted by Freek van Eijk, Managing Director of Acceleratio during his opening speech in the event held today at the Industry Association of Rio de Janeiro (FIRJAN). The event organized by the Dutch Consulate in Rio de Janeiro in partnership with FIRJAN’s International Business Centre was part of the second Trade Mission aimed at bringing dutch sustainable solutions to the city of Rio de Janeiro.

As more and and more people moves from rural areas to major cities, city sustainability become a key topic on such an urbanized world. The Brazilian scenario is not different, specially in Rio de Janeiro, which has been recently ranked the brazilian city with the highest growth index among the top 300 economic centres in the world (Brookings Institution, March 2015).

The first Dutch mission in March 2015 had its efforts focused on the discussion around the clean-up of Guanabara Bay for the Olympic Games 2016 and beyond. This second mission and specialy due to the partnership with FIRJAN allowed a more direct knowledge exchange between UK and Brazilian industries.

“The solution is to develop circular metropolitan economies” – that was the key message brought from the five technology providers that came from Holand promoting the country as a sustainable urban delta.

I have joined the second panel to demonstrate the circular economy benefits within the Brazilian context and introduce the Brazilian Case Studies – Aquapolo/Odebrecht Environmental, Comlurb and SENAI. The figures from ABRELPE – The Brazilian Association of Waste Management Companies – were presented showing a 2.9% increase on the national waste generation from 2013 to 2014 while population growth was only 0.9%. This study has also shown similar levels of recycling from one year to the next, which means that waste management infra-structure did not develop on the same rate as waste generation growth, which means more material is ending up in landfill.

The aim was therefore to highlight that, while the city of Rotterdam is able to recycle 90% of plastic packaging using state of the art waste management, Brazil is loosing aproximately 8 billion reais per year due to the lack of recycling (IPEA).

It is important to help investors and companies assess where value can be created from circular economy principles by understanding how resilient they are against long-term systemic risks. This is what the Circularity Assessment Tool is trying to address – a tool developed by Dutch organization Circle Economy, that did not take part in this mission but are a key collaborator of the Exchange4Change Brasil platform. Discussions are on going to bring them along on the next mission with the view of establishing in Rio the first test pilot of the tool in a developing country.

As Freek van Eijk said: The secret for the Dutch success in embedded into our culture: ‘open minded’, international and entrepeneurial individuals, cooperative and inclusive business discussions and pragmatic and innovative ideas.

Therefore, events like that are essential platforms for facilitating knowledge exchange, bring innovation and accelerate the implementation of sustainable solutions in Brazil. As I always say: it is about education, frameworks (infrastructural and legal) and attitude.

So, keep an eye open for more news about the next Dutch trade mission in the second quarter of 2016 including amazing Dutch solutions that can be adapted to the brazilian reality.

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