An Interview with Ghislaine Hierso

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Ghislaine Hierso is an economist and a geographer. She is the President and Founder of Sages & Responables (strategy consultant for shareholders on environmental and social governance), and she is responsible for and co-operator of B&L Evolution SCOP. She is the President of the “Association Française des Petits Debrouillards (AFPD),” founded in 1986 with links to the Canadian organization, which is a non-profit called “Petits Débrouillards” - an educational network which has built pedagogical tools about scientific culture and industrial techniques in partnership with national society and local authorities. Ghislaine Hiero is Co-President of Alliss (Cooperative platform of research sciences and societies) and Member of CNNum (The French Digital Council). She is Vice-President of Cercle de réflexion et d’actions Valeurs Vertes (a think and do tank), an administrator of association 4D, (Dossiers de Débats pour le Développement Durable; debating issues and for sustainable development) and “Confrontations Europe” (a think tank focused on Europe). She is a member of the “Société d’economic Politique” (French Political Economy Society) and the Bridge Tank. She is Chevalier dans l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur (2012) and Chevalier dans l’Ordre National du Mérite (2001).

Q. The concept of cradle to cradle is analogous to a circular economy. Can you explain the differences between the concept of a linear economy and that of a circular economy?

The Circular Economy is primarily an economy of poverty - a secular economy. Since the beginning of time, humans have had to protect their resources, and reuse everything that could be reused: agricultural reuse, food scraps, textiles, scrap metal, weapons transformed into agricultural tools, etc.

We must be cognizant that the economy of waste -- the linear economy linear, where one produces and consumes, then throws away -- is born from the industrial revolution. The industrialization of mass production has resulted in not only mass production but mass consumption: the manufacturing of needs without much concern about the ‘end of life’ of these objects.  Waste is being thrown outside the home, then hidden and ignored as landfills are located away from the centers of cities.

The concerns of waste management towards the end of the 19th century were arose when health problems became an issue in developing countries, (see the Prefect Poubelke in France). Taking into account the environmental consequences of waste management didn’t begin until later, in the 1970’s. Today we must advocate for, as I like to say, "An economy of equal prosperity with sobriety." It is essential to conserve natural resources and ensure that consumption reduction requirements take into account each country’s development. We must provide access to resources for all. We must all be more effective, and more efficient.

As the twentieth century has been a century of waste, it is necessary that the twenty-first century become the century of recycling.

The first reports that declared this need date back to the 1970s by the Club of Rome (1972) and the Brundtland Report "Our Future For All" (1987). However, some philosophers like Henri David Thoreau and Hans Jonas had discussed very early that these would be problems of that come with a civilization of technology.

Integrative waste management policy encourages  de-materialization and the effective use of resources. This type of policy has been implemented for over 10 years now in Japan.

Since 2000, Europe has published its thoughts on the implementation of a policy based on the sound recycling of environmental material according to the principle of the 3 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle). It is from this epiphany that the concept of "cradle to cradle” is born.

The idea that "everything returns to the earth" should be approached with caution, because we must avoid the dilution of pollution. For example, WEEE (electrical and electronic waste) does indeed contain precious metals and other materials which can be recycled, but must be treated with caution before they can be disposed of.  As another example, organic waste must be collected separately, and not be contaminated by other waste byproducts such as plastics and batteries to ensure their organic nature.

Taking into account the earth’s heritage is essential; Mother Earth’s biodiversity is often the poor parent of these policies which forget that in order to return to the soil, real precautions need to be taken for the preservation of natural resources, water, and the biodiversity of the planet.

The Circular Economy, therefore, is not to sustain the management of waste, but to take account of the hierarchy of waste. Prevention, consume less and better, reuse, repair all that can be put in a good state with few transformations, recycle considering the valuation of material, transform waste and matter into products, recover energy (with heat, electricity) and eliminate what cannot be reused or transformed. This is a more efficient and rational use of resources (raw materials, water, and energy).

The Circular Economy is often presented as a local phenomena. However, it should be a global conversation, considering the trade of certain recyclable materials (paper, recycled paper, scrap, plastics, etc.), as stipulated by the relationship between recycling and the origins of different products (www.cercle-cyclope.com).  At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, there were concerns about The Circular Economy. In particular, there was conversation about the "New Global Context”, an establishment of a new economic model more respectful of humans, of the environment and, more widely, the planet. This is an issue of major debate.

 

What is the place of the everyday citizen in this economic model? What are the actions necessary to participate in this ecological and economic approach?

I would say that every citizen, every company, every community, and every government must be a player in the circular economy, and each at its own level.

 

What underlies the defined objectives to implement the circular economy?

To avoid the waste of resources and energy, to secure the supply of raw materials for the economy, to decrease environmental impact, to re-industrialize the territories, to limit the production of wastes that can not reused.

 

What actions can businesses and governments help with?

They can involve all citizens. They can empower businesses to mobilize communities and develop innovative activities that create jobs.

Each citizen should ensure they have a real need and use for any given purchase, and when the product is at the end of its life, they should do all they can to sort it as waste, or to facilitate its possible reuse or recycling.

During the production process, companies should integrate and understand the full life cycle of a product or service, from its design to the end of its life.

The local administrations have to implement plans that facilitate the use of the waste from one territory as a resource for the other (the industrial ecology), as well as more informative communication campaigns aimed at the wider public. This can promote awareness to the fact that we are all affected by the reduction of the impacts on the environment.

The European and national authorities must develop regulations that take into account this new economic ecosystem of industrial territory.

Despite advances initiated in June 2004 within the framework of the G8 Summit (link 1) and despite the 17 Objectives of Sustainable Development adopted by United Nations in September 2015 -- which integrate the protection of resources with new European economic models (link 2) and national regulations (links 3 and 4) -- the fiscal system, be it public or private investments, does not allow for the implementation of a resilient model that promotes the resources necessary for the Circular Economy. The volatility of the commodities markets, as presented by the Cyclops Report, is a further example of this.

In the light of these imperative ecological, social, and economic waste management initiatives, the valuation of these resources must be the object of an integrated transversal policy to facilitate the implementation of a circular economy.

The circular economy is not good in itself if the integrated approach does not take into account all the ecological imperatives (preservation of resources and to avoid the dilution of the pollution), social (Valorization of hard trades, reduction of the precarious), and economic (volatility of prices of raw materials, and the new economic model).

To this day, the Social and Solidarity Economy, in these objectives, participates most actively in the implementation of this Circular Economy by an economy of more pay (c/o Bernard Stiegler). Many of the projects are seen throughout the world, but often at a restricted level. Local approaches are of course essential, but we need to mobilize towards a project of the Whole.

 

Currently, what plans are in place, in France, and particularly around the metropolis of The Greater Paris to facilitate the implementation of these environmental and economic issues? Could more advanced countries serve as a model for France?

In September 2015, the city of Paris put in mplace the States General of the Circular Economy (link 5) where several initiatives  have been presented, thanks to meetings with all many players: businesses, researchers, academics, and heads of networks of the circular economy.

Various practices and ideals have been developed on the pillars of the circular economy, such as Eco-design, Economics of the functionality, Eco-mobility, planned obsolescence, Use, Repair and Recycle (link 6). The appointment of the Circular Economy will take place on October 26, 2016 -- recognizing the actions of local communities and of the territory -- a year after the States General announced the Circular Economy of the Greater Paris.

To better understand the circular economy, workshops will be presented in the schools, colleges and high schools: workshops to combat waste, or on training for trades and know-how. Explore the workshops about resources for young people in link. 7. Several reports on the green economy and green ways of life have been published. including the Report and Program modes of life the association 4D (link 8), of the ADEME (Http://www.ademe.fr), and of the Institute of the Économie Circular (Http://www.institut-economie-circulaire.fr)

 

Resources:

(1) http://www.env.go.jp/fr/recycle/

(2) http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/fr/objectifs-de-developpement-durable/

(3) europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-6203_en.htm

(4) http://www.developpement-durable.gouv.fr/-La-transition-energetique-pour-la-.html

(5) http://www.economiecirculaire.org/library/h/livre-blanc-de-leconomie-circulaire-du-grand-paris.html

(6) http://www.oree.org/source/_Surlarouteeconomiecirculaire.pdf

(7) http://lespetitsdebrouillards.org/?rub=actus

(8) http://www.association4d.org/our-life-21/our-life-21-les-modes-de-vie/

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