The Circular economy isn't just a buzzword, at Altri it's a reality

Society in general, and the economy in particular, are very cyclical. Every cycle is given a name some time after it has started, and these names o􀁛 en become nothing more than jargon.

Two of the biggest buzzwords right now are Sustainability and Circularity (or circular economy), which are very much intertwined. Because of what they represent, they are now at the top of the agenda. The former, under the name Sustainable Development, gained worldwide attention following the report by Gro Brundtland (“our common future”, 1987), which disseminated an idea formed in the 70s, and which can be seen as an umbrella term for a balanced economy, based on 3 pillars: economic; social; environmental.

The latter, which dates back to the same period but which has only recently come into the limelight, is based on three principles: reducing waste; (re)circulating products and materials; regenerating nature.

Terms such as Reduce, Recirculate, Recycle and Reuse entered our common lexicon when society realised that our world and its resources are not infinite. This was helped along by impactful images shown on television, but especially on social media, forcing governments worldwide (and in particular the governments of more developed countries) to take measures to turn this situation around.

At Altri we keep abreast of these trends and are very aware of our social responsibility, and our investments have therefore always included the BAT (best available technology). This approach has enabled us to be at the forefront of what is now called the circular economy, with some innovative projects which are setting a global standard:

  • Very low specific water consumption in our process;
  • Recirculation of final effluent back to the water used in the process;
  • Reuse of sawdust and rejected materials for pulp production.

The future will now be more complex, because the “easy part” has already been done…

The growing importance financial bodies are placing on SDG Indicators, in which Altri has scored extremely highly, and the social and economic climate in which we live, have alerted society to the dangers of relying on dictatorial and unstable political and economic blocs.

These threats could become opportunities through innovation, industrial symbiosis and active cooperation with other industrial sectors.

The efforts to find added value in waste or undervalued secondary net streams will become increasingly important in this new economic cycle.

Challenges, such as implementing an “aquarium” factory, where almost all final effluent is put back into circulation; a factory with no fossil fuels; the elimination of industrial landfills and recovery of CO2 from chimneys, are all on the table. These challenges can be overcome – some easily some less so – and incorporated into the process with economic advantages, as has happened in the past.

Final observation:

We have to mention an extraordinary opportunity, which involves finding a solution to a serious environmetal, economic and social issue, which is textile recycling.

Unlike the metal, paper and glass industries, where recycling rates top 60% (in the developed world), the figures for the textile industry are negligible, less than 1%. This has its own inevitable consequences. But we will address this issue when (and if) the GAMA project goes ahead.