Changing people’s behaviour will be among the biggest challenges facing the circular economy, one of the seminal circular economy theorists has said.
Education will be key to transforming behaviour, said Professor Walter Stahel, director and co-founder of sustainability consultancy the Product-Life Institute Geneva. Stahel was responding to questions put forward by members of Scotland’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.
“The major challenge is to shift the minds of people from thinking that waste is a problem that is inherent to the product to thinking that waste is a problem only in the minds of people,” he said,“If they no longer want something, that does not mean that the product has become waste.”
Stahel therefore recommended that the Scottish Government should work in partnership with universities to set up data banks to share industry best practices. These would allow small and medium-sized businesses to see what other companies have done, find examples of successful models, and obtain advice on how and where to acquire new capabilities and skills.
This move could also help to attract more business activity in the region: “Producing clusters involving academia and industry might attract companies that are willing to make the step to come to Scotland.”
Walter Stahel is a Swiss architect and consultant.
In a 1976 report to the European Commission in Brussels titled “The Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy”, Stahel sketched the vision of an economy in loops - or circular economy - and its impact on job creation, economic competitiveness, resource savings and waste prevention.
In 1983 he co-founded The Product-Life Institute Geneva, a consultancy devoted to developing sustainable strategies and policies.
In 2005 he was appointed as a Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Engineering and Physical Sciences of the University of Surrey, Guildford.