Circular Economy Discussed; Summit Planned Later This Year

The “Circular Economy” was the topic discussed at a small meeting March 4 at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum in downtown Santa Barbara. 

A circular economy is a system in which raw materials, components and products lose their value as little as possible and renewable energy sources are used to cut waste and pollution. 

One of the speakers, Mike Wald, chief marketing officer at Santa Barbara-based company Oniracom, explained that the first step in a circular economy is the design of a product that is not used once and then discarded into a landfill. 

For example, he said, an Apple iPhone is not reusable for the most part as it is currently designed. He suggested it be redesigned so that it can be reused as a lower-cost computer. 

He also suggested to “reimagine products that you use.” However, Wald admitted that “to be fully circular is expensive,” but successful companies such as Ventura-based Patagonia design sustainable clothing products. 

Another speaker, Carlyle A. Johnston of the Santa Barbara Resource Recovery & Waste Management Division, explained the growing need for sustainability. 

He said up to 220,000 tons of waste are buried in the county’s landfill each year, including organic that waste generates methane, which is a harmful greenhouse gas. 

The county recycles about 50,000 tons of material a year, but that must be taken to Ventura County to be reused, Johnston said. He noted that China is no longer accepting recyclable plastic as it had for years in the past because it has enough of its own plastic to deal with now. 

He said that will force the United States “achieve a higher standard” of recycling and reuse. But even recycling is an industrial process that could cause pollution, Johnston said. 

To that end, Johnston said, Santa Barbara County soon plans to open the ReSource Center, which is described as a cutting-edge facility that is fundamentally redefining waste recovery. 

The center, formerly known as the Tajiguas Resource Recovery Project, will divert 60 percent of the county’s landfill waste and generate green energy and compost in an effort to greatly lower greenhouse gas emissions, while creating about 100 jobs. 

Another speaker Jeff Reiss, CEO of Peletx Inc., discussed the “green industrial carbon cycle,” which captures CO2 and processes it into raw materials for products for construction and manufacturing. 

Reiss said this is in an effort to effectively begin slowing the rate of global warming and transition into a more sustainable world. 

One of the organizers the meeting, Jacqueline Lopez of Spiritual Safari Media, said she is planning on holding a “Circular Economy Summit” later this year in Santa Barbara.

Posted March 5, 2020.

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