The concept of the circular economy is becoming increasingly familiar to us. However, although we hear it repeatedly, it still raises many questions about its nature and advantages. These doubts multiply if we talk about how GIS or Geographic Information Systems contribute to its development. With this article, from Geograma we want to clear them all up for you.
What is the circular economy?
By circular economy we mean a production and consumption model that aims to minimise the waste generated in all areas. To this end, the circular economy is based on extending the useful life or reuse of materials and products. This can be achieved, for example, through recycling, repairing or leasing.
The circular economy emerges as an alternative to the traditional linear economic model, which follows a sequence of acquire – manufacture – consume – dispose. A model that implies a high consumption of materials and raw materials.
Why is the circular economy necessary?
We are at a juncture where the world’s ever-growing population is placing ever-increasing demands on the consumption of products. However, raw materials are limited.
On the other hand, the extraction of these materials has a profound environmental impact, such as the emission of greenhouse gases, the main contributors to global warming. In fact, according to the European Union, the production of materials that we use everyday accounts for 45% of CO2 emissions.
In addition, measures for the adoption of a circular economy offer companies and other actors benefits such as:
- Reducing pressure on the environment.
- Improve security of supply of raw materials.
- Increasing competitiveness.
- Stimulate innovation.
- Boosting economic growth.
- Create jobs.
- Offer more durable and innovative products that will save them money in the long run.
- Greater prestige, due to the quality of its products and its involvement with the planet, which will translate into more sales and profits.
According to the World Economic Forum, the shift to a circular economy could generate one trillion dollars per year for the global economy by 2025. It would also create around 100,000 jobs and reduce waste by around 100 million tonnes in five years.
How to achieve the circular economy through Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Within this path towards the circular economy, we must highlight the contribution made by Geographic Information Systems or GIS to it. We are going to study some of the use cases that contribute most to this economic and environmental model.
We can start by talking about recycling. Here, GIS is very useful in building up an inventory of the infrastructure involved, consisting of containers, clean points, recycling plants, etc.
In addition, the combined use of other technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), makes it possible to know the actual filling levels of the containers. This information is highly relevant for designing collection routes that are as optimised as possible.
But GIS can be used for more than just inventorying elements. Beyond this geolocated data, it can also include socio-demographic information on their surroundings (age, sex, income levels…).
With this information, resources are available to know where to place more containers or where to focus efforts when developing public awareness campaigns, among other uses.
For many companies, such as manufacturing industries, GIS helps to make their supply chain more transparent. Knowing as much as possible about the supply chain makes it easier to source recycled materials from trusted suppliers.
If we focus on waste management, GIS together with artificial intelligence can provide data on types of materials, quantities, concentrations and movements of waste. Very useful for manufacturers, recycling companies, investors and public administrations.
Beyond waste and recycling, advanced equipment maintenance supported by geospatial data also makes a valuable contribution to the circular economy. For example, for vehicle leasing companies, their geolocation combined with IoT can predict future breakdowns through predictive maintenance.
On the other hand, the circular economy is also based on making the most of underused assets. As an example, there are companies that rent out tourist flats, where the location of these apartments becomes relevant and offer their clients the ones that best suit their location preferences.
There is no doubt that the relationship between GIS and the circular economy has great potential to flourish. At Geograma, we are going to do our utmost to make this possible. A sign of our commitment to make geolocated data an essential agent for the care of the environment.
If you also want to take part in this green revolution and be part of it, we would be delighted to hear your proposal and get down to work together. Shall we start now? Get in touch with us.