Today, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation hosted a roundtable to explore how to accelerate innovation in industrial products and fuels for a net-zero, circular economy, which is one of five priorities for the Biden-Harris Administration’s Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative. Today’s roundtable convened leading innovators from business, policy, communities, and other stakeholder groups to discuss the greatest opportunities – and challenges – in game-changing innovations for industrial decarbonization and a circular economy that can enable net-zero emissions.
Participants discussed how producing materials in a net-zero economy will require:
- developing innovative chemistries,
- designing products and systems to deliver the same or better services for people with re-use, repair, and recycling in mind,
- making our supply chains more circular,
- developing new and improved methods for setting standards, increasing transparency, tracking material stocks and flows, and assessing full life cycle impacts, and
- developing new business models and policies that put a value on the benefits of a circular economy for the environment, economic prosperity, and national security.
Net-zero circular economy innovation can drive the next industrial revolution that will provide jobs that are good for people and the environment. This new industrial revolution will work with nature, not against it, and it will build in circularity and equity from the beginning, by design.
The opening plenary set the stage for the event, and featured remarks from Ellen MacArthur Foundation CEO Andrew Morlet, OSTP Deputy Director for Energy Sally Benson, Ellen MacArthur Foundation Executive Lead Joss Bleriot, and U.S. State Department Foreign Affairs Officer Liz Nichols. Several themes on circular economy innovation then emerged in the roundtable conversation and case study examples:
- Circular economy innovations can contribute not only to decarbonization and net-zero goals, but also to economic growth and jobs, environmental justice, ending pollution, supply chain security, and other important priorities for America.
- Circular economy innovation in the U.S. is taking many forms, including: using compostable bio-materials as an alternative to synthetic plastics; AI assisted robots for sorting recyclable materials; reuse, repurposing and remanufacturing for extending the life of equipment before it is recycled; wastewater purification and reuse; recycling critical materials in batteries, magnets, and electronics to increase domestic supply chain security; and everything from community-based programs to core corporate strategies.
- Systems innovation and experimentation is needed to fill the gaps for creating a circular economy; examples include developing “product passports” to track valuable materials and manage product life cycles, as well develop policies to put a value on the broad benefits provided by making our economy more circular.
- Innovation is needed across the board to expand opportunities for building a more circular economy – from fundamental research to develop new materials and manufacturing processes to systems-level and social innovation to increase public participation.