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NICER Programme Circular Economy Showcase 2023
May 23 @ 9:30 am - May 25 @ 4:30 pm
The NICER Programme Circular Economy Showcase is coordinated by the CE-Hub at the University of Exeter Business School for the NICER Programme and is the NICER Programme’s flagship annual conference. This exclusive three-day event showcased innovative CE Research and Action from across the NICER Programme through a series of sessions from each NICER Centre, including short talks, expert Panel discussions (with audience Q&A) and facilitated networking. The 2023 Annual CE Showcase will celebrate the activity and impact of the five specialist NICER Centres and the coordinating CE Hub over the first two years of the Programme.
On 24th May, the CircularMetal Centre conducted a series of oral presentations that included a session welcome, an early-career researchers session, a session highlighting partner SMEs of the Centre, and a panel discussion. Below are the recordings for each session, along with a short description for each segment.
1. SESSION WELCOME
Within the session welcome, Prof. Brian Cantor introduced the CircularMetal Centre. As a response to increasing global resource consumption causing climate change and energy depletion, he emphasised adopting Circular Economy principles, promoting metal reuse, re-manufacturing, and improved recycling to reduce mining. Prof. Cantor highlighted collaboration among various sectors to drive circular practices.
2. EARLY-CAREER RESEARCHERS SESSION
This session involved presentations given by early-career researchers in the field of Circular Economy. They shared their research findings, innovative ideas, and potential solutions to sustainability challenges, contributing to the overall goals of achieving a Circular Economy.
2.1 “The Metal Health Service” by Dr. Ebad Bagherpour
Dr. Bagherpour’s presentation centred on the shift from linear to circular resource consumption, particularly focusing on metals. He emphasised the need to extend the life of metallic components through rejuvenation, recovery, and crack healing with the Metal Health Service to reduce fatigue-related failures. The Electro-Pulse Treatment plays a vital role in effectively rejuvenating and treating metallic components, as proven by its ability to extend their cyclic life significantly.
2.2 “Big Repair Project” by Dr. Danielle Purkiss
Dr. Purkiss discussed the Big Repair Project’s focus on addressing the e-waste problem, aiming to keep electronics and appliances in use for longer through maintenance and repair behaviours. She highlighted the recent UK right to repair legislation’s limitations and the need for expanded coverage and lower costs for spare parts. The presentation revealed participants’ desire for longer product lifespans, preference for independent repair services, and the importance of a repairability index and product ownership in influencing repair behaviour. Dr. Purkiss also emphasised the positive impact of repairing on individuals and the need for product design to support repair, improved consumer rights and IP laws, increased access to education on repair practices, and a shift in the economic model to promote circular practices.
2.3 “Towards 2050: Visions for a Circular Metal Economy” by Dr. Alessio Franconi
Dr. Franconi discussed the development of 12 visions for a circular metal economy in 2050, achieved through rigorous research and expert interviews. The visions covered various aspects of the circular metal economy, such as net-zero emission metal production, circular alloys, metal life cycle data, and more. The presentation emphasised the need for a systemic and multi-perspective approach to address barriers and opportunities across social, technological, ecological, economic, and political aspects for successful transition to a circular economy.
3. FACILITATED NETWORKING: SMEs SESSION
This session focused on SMEs involved in circular business activities. Their contributions collectively enriched the event with valuable insights into sustainable practices and circular economy principles. These presentations highlighted practical solutions and innovative approaches that can inspire attendees to adopt environmentally responsible practices in their businesses.
3.1 “Tech-Takeback: Taking the W out of WEEE” by Dr. David Greenfield and Jodi Harford
Dr. Greenfield and Ms. Harford discussed Tech-Takeback, a Brighton-based not-for-profit reuse company, which focuses on collecting end-of-life electricals for secure reuse. They outlined their multiple outlets for reused items, including digital inclusion with charities, resale through their high street Revaluit shop and eBay account, donation via Freegle, and disassembly for recycling. Additionally, they presented the findings of the RevaluRepair project, highlighting the value of opening a high-street shop for repairing and reselling small electronic devices, as well as the development of a multi-criteria assessment matrix to determine the viability of repairing discarded electronic items. They also emphasised the challenges related to the short lifespan of electronic devices and the differentiation between unwanted and wanted electricals for repair.
3.2 “DISRUPT: Delivering Innovative Steel ReUse ProjecT” by Richard Broad
Mr. Broad discussed the “DISRUPT Steel reuse project,” a not-for-profit sustainability organisation aiming to facilitate greater supply of reused steel in the construction industry. They conducted a literature review, interviews with stakeholders, and developed 11 case studies of steel reuse to create a toolkit for market entrants, providing guidance and business considerations. Richard also mentioned upcoming projects, including DISRUPT II, focused on deep diving with demolition contractors, a reuse platform, and procurement analysis, as well as the “Reuse Now” campaign launched by ASBP to encourage greater material reuse in construction.
3.3 “Automated Laser-Cleaning Rejuvenation of 3D-Metallic Components for Re-use within the Circular Economy” by John Clowes
Mr. Clowes explained that Laser-cleaning is an established technology that can efficiently remove contaminants from any surface without using water, chemicals, or contact. The LASERCLEAN-CE Automation involves imaging a 3D metallic object, creating a 3D CAD model, and then using a Collaborative-Robot integrated with an Eye-safe Laser Cleaning System to automatically perform the cleaning process, ensuring safety through “Retina-Safe” Wavelengths that do not cause retinal damage and allowing for use in open-access spaces using proximity sensors instead of physical safety enclosures.
4. PANEL DISCUSSION
In this panel discussion chaired by Prof. Mark Miodownik, panellists including Dr. Russell Hall, Dr. Katherine Adams, Prof. David Harrison, and Prof. Isaac Chang shared their insights on the future opportunities for circularity in the metal industry. The discussions highlighted technological breakthroughs, business models, and product design strategies to achieve circularity. The role of legislation, the need for a circularity law, and the importance of global collaboration were also addressed as crucial factors in advancing the circular economy for metals. During the panel discussion, the audience actively engaged with the panellists by asking questions and providing comments, further enriching the conversation and fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas on the future of circularity in the metal industry.