International conference on industrial ecology (ISIE)

Reusable cups were adopted by fast food companies as an answer to disposable takeaway cups. Good idea? Not by definition, says Tomer Fishman assistant professor at the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) and lead author of a new whitepaper, ‘10 insights from industrial ecology for the circular economy.’ “‘Reuse is often better, but it depends on the type of cup and how often you use it. People often have many reusable cups at home and don’t regularly reuse them, which only increases overall emissions.”

A great example of the importance of choosing a ‘life cycle perspective’. Only if we consider all impact, from the extraction of raw materials to end-of-life waste, we can avoid that a potential answer to a problem ends up shifting the problem elsewhere, or worse: cause an even bigger problem. This is one of the insights of the field of industrial ecology pointed out in the whitepaper, that Fishman wrote with a group of international scientists, preparing for the International Society for Industrial Ecology. 

Another insight: Be carefull to tweak current systems to minimise impacts. Instead, design systems that are more efficient and long lasting. Think of electric cars for example. They might be a solution to fossil fuel pollution, but they also reinforce the existing problem of more cars on the road, instead of working on a better-designed public transport. “We need to rethink mobility from a systems perspective. Electric cars solve the problem of fossil fuel cars, but not the problem of cars.”

Read the short interview with Fishman on website of Leiden University.  
Read the whitepaper '10 insights from industrial ecology for the circular economy'

Read more about the congres on Industrial Ecology in Leiden, with industrial ecologists worldwide sharing knowledge and new insights.