The Next Economy
Circular Economy Gains Steam in US Thanks to DOE's REMADE Project, Emerging Innovators

Two recent bits of news from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) point to continued groundwork being laid toward a circular economy in the U.S. and beyond.

First, the Golisano Institute for Sustainability (GIS) at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), part of the EMF’s Pioneer University network, has been selected by the US Department of Energy, as part of its Manufacturing USA initiative, to lead its new Reducing Embodied-Energy and Decreasing Emissions (REMADE) Institute. The project will see a national coalition of leading universities and companies forge new clean energy initiatives, deemed critical in keeping the U.S. manufacturing industry competitive. The EMF is a REMADE partner organization.

The Institute will focus its efforts on driving down the cost of technologies essential to the reuse, recycle and remanufacture of materials such as metals, fibers, polymers and electronic waste, and aims to achieve a 50 percent improvement in overall efficiency by 2027.

RIT has a long and established reputation as a global leader in sustainable manufacturing, remanufacturing, applied research, technology transfer and policy development. Through the REMADE Institute, RIT will work with $140 million in resources as well as a team of researchers, national laboratories, companies and trade organizations.

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“Across the nation and around the world, cleaner production, clean tech and adoption of a circular economy are recognized as critical drivers to a prosperous future,” said Nabil Nasr, Associate Provost and Director of RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability. “As resource scarcity intensifies, the thoughtful use of water, energy and raw materials is the only path forward. This Institute will leverage several strong building blocks already in place in New York State and create new opportunities for economic growth.”

As a Pioneer University and member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100) network, RIT will continue to work closely with the Foundation to integrate circular economy into its research and education efforts, and to contribute to circular economy initiatives and publications.

Meanwhile, EMF also recently announced the addition of six new Emerging Innovators to its international CE100 program, all of which are prototyping and scaling new business models that will help accelerate the shift to a circular economy:

  • Biopolus is motivated by a desire to make cities more efficient, resilient, and lovable. The Hungarian environmental engineering firm is a leader in cutting-edge, urban infrastructure technologies, solutions and practices. Its water reuse, resource recovery, waste management, and food production solution portfolio offers environmental and financial benefits to a wide variety of communities in addition to investors and developers. Biopolus aims to establish an open platform that can manage the flows of water, energy, materials, people, and information to close the human 'metabolic loop' for the development of a circular human model.
  • Scotland’s Circularity Capital is a specialist private equity firm founded to provide clients access to investment opportunities created by the circular economy. Circularity Capital’s investment mandate focuses on investing £1-5m in growth-stage SMEs operating in the circular economy across Europe. It seeks out businesses that can outperform the market and their linear competitors by applying the circular economy framework.
  • London-based Provenance empowers brands to take steps towards greater transparency by tracing the origins and histories of products. These digital histories comprise data and content shared by producers, retailers and consumers alike, made accessible at the point of sale and to the entire supply chain. Enabled by blockchain, mobile and open data, Provenance software stores key verified information on an open registry, making it secure, trustworthy and accessible.
  • The Renewal Workshop – a semi-finalist in the 2016 SB Innovation Open – partners with top apparel brands and retailers to maintain the highest value of their products, by making waste apparel and textiles into something new. It starts with products that need a solution to “unsellable” returns and excess inventory. In its factory in Cascade Locks, Oregon, the product is sorted, cleaned, and repaired (if needed), giving each garment new life as Renewed Apparel. The Renewed Apparel is then either sold through the original brands’ sales channels, or through The Renewal Workshop's website. Any product that can’t be renewed is upcycled or recycled in order to optimize the resources already invested in them.
  • Thread takes post-consumer waste from the poorest places in the world and transforms it into dignified jobs and useful stuff people love. Starting with plastic bottles, responsibly collected and processed in Haiti and Honduras, Thread – a finalist in the 2013 SB Innovation Open based in Pittsburgh, Pa. – transforms this plastic waste into recycled PET, polyester yarn, and fabric. Thread then partners with global brands such as Timberland and HP to provide a responsible source material with a compelling story for their customers.
  • Texas-based Urban Mining Company (UMC) is a Neodymium (NdFeB) magnet manufacturer and recycler, and the only NdFeB producer in the U.S. UMC produces premium-grade NdFeB magnets by recycling end-of-life or scrap NdFeB magnets, and custom-making a magnet to suit any application, all while using scrap magnets as a feedstock. UMC’s NdFeB sintered magnets support development of technological applications across the consumer, medical, aerospace, clean energy and other high-growth industrial sectors.
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