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How to save US$3 trillion

DAVOS, Switzerland: A World Economic Forum initiative called 'Project Mainstream' has launched three programmes covering plastic packaging, paper and paperboard production, and electronic goods asset tracking in a bid to implement a circular business process.

"The need for more circular models of manufacturing and design is undeniable – currently, 80 percent of the US$3.2 trillion value of the consumer goods sector is lost to product waste each year," commented Dominic Waughray, member of the Management Committee at the World Economic Forum.

Philips circular economyInvolving the collaboration of 30 global companies, the project is driven by the CEOs of Brambles, Brightstar, BT, Desso, Royal DSM, Ecolab, Indorama Ventures, Kingfisher, Royal Philips, Suez Environnement and Veolia.

The aim is to address current bottlenecks across the plastic, paper and electronics supply chains by focusing on material flows through product design, reverse logistics, business model innovation and cross-sector collaboration.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, today's processes, designed in isolation, result in almost all plastic packaging being made from virgin materials and used just once. Annual material demand for PET and polyester, which is used in plastic bottles and the textile industry, is 54 million tonnes, of which roughly 86 percent can end up in landfills.

The WEF estimates that nearly US$4 billion in value could be recovered from the better use of PET; some US$10 billion from redesigning paper and paperboard production; and US$52 billion from improved asset tracking of consumer electronics and household appliances.

McKinsey calculates that US$390 billion worth of consumer electronics and household appliances reach end of life every year. The company says the industrial Internet and the 'Internet of Things' can be used to extend the life and value of these products by addressing the information gaps that prevent better decision-making on what to do with a product when a (first) user is finished with it.

"There has been significant progress in the transition to a circular economy, and Project MainStream aims to act as a catalyst by tackling the challenges and stalemates that organizations cannot individually resolve. This collaboration across global supply chains marks an important next phase for the circular economy, with a clear move towards systems-level change," said Ellen MacArthur.

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