You may be more familiar with circularity initiatives in consumer facing brands like IKEA and Tesco, but industries you might not think of have also been quietly innovating in this area too – and building on factors inherent to their industry that support a more advanced circular model.
A number of fully recyclable wind turbine blades are set to be installed at an offshore wind farm in the North Sea. This move has been heralded as a landmark moment in the drive towards a more circular economy for the booming wind energy industry. Currently, about 85% of a turbine, including the steel towers, can be recycled or re-used; however the blades have, until now, proved a challenge, as the materials are bound with a resin that ensures they’re strong enough to withstand typhoon conditions. Siemens’ new blades, however, can be broken down into their separate components, the new technology allows for the resin to be dissolved using heat. As the first-generation wind turbines are being decommissioned, landfilling such big items as blades has become a big issue.
This recent innovation is the cherry on top of its proverbial circularity cake. By the nature of the turbines’ high initial expenditure, remote locations and size, the industry is naturally built on circular principles – it has always invested in durability and maintenance to expand the product’s lifespan. This focus on longevity, paired with the new blade recycling innovation, serves to truly embed circularity at all levels of its operations.
Such a holistic adoption of circularity is often lacking in current B2C business models. Circular opportunities can include a change to the product itself, its production and its consumption. Each industry needs to identify their own leverage points for advancing progress on circularity at speed.
Author: Rosanna Greenwood