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Abstract

Brief approach about the intersection of Biomimicry and the Circular Economy
Circular What?
I can tell at this moment you are looking at your
computer screen. Carefully reading this text and
maybe sipping coffee. Do you have any idea how that
piece of technology ended up in your hands? If your
computer could talk, would you like to hear its story?
From the extraction of its raw materials all the way
down to the packaging for delivery, your computer has
secrets that you may not want to know.
In 2010 in the United States; 2,439,000 tons of waste
from electronic devices were generated; 649 thousand
tons were recycled while the rest (1,790,000 tons) was
thrown in landfills or incinerated. (Metrofax, 2013). In
order to manufacture a computer, it is estimated that
companies need about 240 kilograms of fossil fuels,
22kg of synthetic chemical compounds and 1,500 liters
of grey water (Hall, 2014), which is equivalent to six
car tanks fully loaded with fossil fuel and flushing your
toilet 300 times; quite outrageous numbers as you can
see.
So, let me get this straight, we waste huge amounts of
resources (mostly non-renewable) in order to produce
huge amounts of waste, because the product
manufactured in between the extraction-wasting
process, has an average life span of 5.5 years (CEA,
2014); 1,790,000 tons of electronic waste are out
there, probably in Agbobloshie, a former wetland in
Ghana (The Gyardin, 2014), in hands of people that if
weren’t working in the landfill wouldn’t have access to
this technology.
That is just perfect. Excellent. Great. Amazing.
Yes, it is. I imagine the look in your face, the horror
expression, the arch of your eyebrows and your hands
wide open asking for an explanation. Just remember,
I’m a biomimic and I certainly have a good reason to
say electronic waste in developing countries polluting
the soil and atmosphere is great.
The thing about electronic waste is that we can change
its last name, “waste” for “resources”; like the old
saying, “One’s garbage is another’s treasure”, what if
we eradicate the concept of waste? What if Ghana
owns the biggest nickel (and other strange metals)
mine? Stop thinking about waste and start thinking
about nutrients and easy to access resources.
How can I dare to make such an outrageous
statement?
I dare because I’m not the first one to do it and come
out of it in one piece. It all began back in 1989 when
Richard Frosch and Nicholas Gallopoulos published a
paper in Scientific American where the same question
was asked and the term Industrial Ecology seemed to
be the answer. Industrial Ecology is a multidisciplinary
field that analyses material, water, and energy flows of
industrial and consumer systems (ISIE, 2015) so it
certainly can help untangle the mystery behind turning
waste into resources; Industrial Ecology could be
considered one of the school of thoughts that gave
birth to Circular Economy.
Once again, that look in your face, “Circular what?”
Circular Economy, another way to think about how our
industries work, since the moment you extract
resources from the soil all the way down to the
moment those resources, in the form of a no-longer
usable product, end up in the hands of somebody in
the other side of the world. But Circular Economy also
nurtures from another school of thought, Biomimicry.
Janine Benyus coined the term Biomimicry back in
1997 in her homonymous book Biomimicry: Innovation
inspired by nature. Etymologically it means to imitate
life; however, Biomimicry is a more exhaust analysis of
what we can learn from a mentor that has gone
through 3.8 billion years or Research & Development.
Have you ever seen a Morpho butterfly? Perhaps you
weren’t aware about its name, so let me describe it to
you. Morpho butterflies are black with brilliant and
vibrant blue wings, they reflect light and attract our
attention when they allow us to see them.
Well, this in Biomimicry can be described as a
“Champion Adapter” in the function or creating color or
reflecting light; and the value lies in the strategy behind
that brilliant blue color because, the butterfly didn’t use
any paint, or toxic chemicals to create color, so how
does this butterfly achieves that vibrant tone of blue?
And why should you care?
Morpho Butterfly Dr. Keith Wheeler/Science Photo Library
Well, the magic behind the blue color lays in the
structure of the butterfly’s wing scales. Wings are
covered with thousands of microscopic scales
arranged in layers separated by air; these scales
support an array of minute parallel ridges. Scales are
made from chitin, a biopolymer. When light hits the
wings of the butterfly, IR photons are absorbed and the
light bounces and reflects in multiple ways creating
that iridescent blue color.
That’s interesting, you may be thinking; however how
could that be relevant to you or to anybody else is
what I’m about to reveal.
It turns out that GE, in its Global Research
Department; discovered that the scales of the butterfly
also react to thermal energy. GE is developing new
thermal sensors based on the nanostructure of the
butterfly’s wings, sensors that could have a shorter
response time and a more accurate response.
Qualcomm, mimicked the strategy of reflecting light
and launched the Mirasol® technology for a variety of
screen products, such as smart watches and tablets.
Innovation behind biological strategies is limitless.
Biomimicry stablished that by abstracting the design
principle behind the strategy of what the organism’s
“magic” is the key start point for sustainable
innovation. New cleaner technologies and even whole
industries could be benefited by these kind of
knowledge, because all process in nature are low
energy, material efficient and occur at ambient
temperature; so no huge amounts of energy to
manufacture are needed.
Companies could save huge amounts of money by
mimicking nature’s processes, forms or ecosystems.
Because nature has no waste or inventory; it doesn’t
need electricity to work, it does not pollute or intoxicate
itself; is highly efficient and 100% sustainable.
That is what Biomimicry is about, creating sustainable
innovation in design, business, engineering,
architecture, and many other disciplines; by applying
successful strategies found in nature.
So now you have two new noisy concepts to process:
Circular Economy and Biomimicry. And yes I suddenly
started talking about nature and the perfection of trees;
well, that perfection can be emulated in a design that
solves a human problem in a sustainable way by
analyzing not only the design itself but also the life
cycle of the product and designing its life span in a
circular way.
I hope by now at least one of your eyebrows dropped
and you begin to get the big picture.
Biomimicry is innovation inspired by nature and in
nature there is no waste, the concept does not exist,
because in ecosystems an organism’s “waste” is other
organism’s food, or shelter; so materials and energy
circulate within the cycle, without creating pollution.
Circular Economy can be viewed as application of
Biomimicry at an ecosystem level, so not only the
Industrial Ecology concept provides answers but also
the Biomimicry concept, because the perfect source of
examples and successful models of materials and
energy flux is in ecosystems, where 3.8 billion years
did all the R&D and proven solutions help life to thrive.
Man working in landfill and Computer Equipment found in Agbobloshie, Ghana. E-Cycle. Tumblr.
Biomimicry and Circular Economy are the reason
behind my previous “This is perfect” statement. The
fact that electronic waste from the US ended up in
Ghana is a perfect opportunity to 1) Re-think and Re-
design the way the electronic industry endeavors and
2) Propose ways in which Ghana’s population can take
a sustainable advantage of the situation without
suffering the consequences of being constantly
exposed to potentially toxic metals.
There is plenty of room for Biomimicry and Circular
Economy to converge and change electronics’ waste
last name, for electronic re-sources; so next time you
think about a waste put on your biomimicry and
circular economy glasses and re-think about the
endless possibilities that lay behind that “waste”, could
it become a new material? Could you create profit from
it? Could be someone else’s resource?
Let your mind wander and be brave enough to make a
change.
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what-qualcomms-butterfly-inspired-display-
could-do-your-paint
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... Designers should draw on organisms, biological processes, and ecosystems as a way to solve human problems. [18], [24], [4], [26], [29], [31], [37], [38] ...
... In the Cradle to Cradle approach, product design is identified as crucial in the design of sustainable circular systems. Efforts to close the material cycle by C2C design approaches have been researched since 1990 [37]. In line with the EP of the Regenerative Project, the Cradle to Cradle approach (from cradle to cradle) mimics natural ecosystems from a perspective of toxicity and design. ...
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This study aims to propose a framework to organize sustainability strategies from the Schools of Thought of circular economics, to guide the introduce circularity in business models to meet the wishes of researchers and managers. It used the bibliographic method, to analyze scientific articles on circular economy, level of analysis, stock of knowledge on circular economy and perspective of diachronic analysis, seeking to understand its evolution over time; the data were organized with the aid of a synthesizer table, where the characteristics of each school of thought were joined, then interpreted with the content analysis technique, seeking meaning for all terms cataloged in the same semantic field. The strategies were organized in the stages of the technical cycle of the Systemic Diagram of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF). The conclusion shows that the structure created can guide the transition to an era of a more circular economy.
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O Brasil é o quarto maior produtor mundial de coco, com aproximadamente 2x10^6 Mg ano^-1. Um dos principais segmentos é a utilização do fruto imaturo para o consumo da água de coco. Cerca de 80% da massa bruta do fruto são resíduos e levam em média 10 anos para se decompor. Apenas 10% destes resíduos são aproveitados e o restante é tratado como resíduo sólido urbano causando danos ao meio ambiente. A economia circular se contrapõe a esse modelo linear e vem ganhando força ao propor manter o valor dos materiais por mais tempo possível. A reengenharia dos processos une as diversas áreas do conhecimento e facilita essa transição. Este estudo apresenta um cenário de oportunidades, que por meio da inovação e pesquisa podem gerar riqueza enquanto melhoram a saúde ambiental.
Where Do Butterflies Get Their Striking Colors?
  • Jennifer Horton
Jennifer Horton. "Where Do Butterflies Get Their Striking Colors?" HowStuffWorks.
What Qualcomm's Butterfly-Inspired Display Could Do for Your Paint
  • Tom Mckeag
Tom Mckeag. "What Qualcomm's Butterfly-Inspired Display Could Do for Your Paint."
Butterfly-Inspired Display Could Do for Your Paint
Butterfly-Inspired Display Could Do for Your Paint." GreenBiz. N.p., 3 Apr. 2008. Web. 06 July 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2011/09/27/ what-qualcomms-butterfly-inspired-displaycould-do-your-paint