Circular production is no longer only for companies that put the environment first. Scarcity of materials, changing customer priorities and European legislation force more and more companies to change their production processes to more sustainable alternatives. With these developments in mind, Frans Beckers founded FBBasic ten years ago. A few years later, Cirmar followed. He tells us about current developments and what we can expect over the coming years.
His philosophy has not changed since he founded the companies: ‘We need to retain production and bring it back to Europe. To do so, we need raw materials. Europe is currently the only continent where fossil sources are barely available. That is why we need to find new ways of using materials.’ Where most companies think about how they recycle materials long after they have been produced, it will become increasingly important to keep next-use in mind at the drawing board. ‘The design of products has to facilitate next-use solutions: circularity by design.’
Frans is not the only one to recognise the importance of the transition towards a circular economy. The European Union sees circular production as one of the pillars of a self-sustaining Europe. ‘It is up to Europe as a whole to take responsibility for its own production. This is not isolationism, but a realistic approach in order to ensure we can still produce in 100 years.’ One of the key elements of this European plan is the introduction of a digital product passport. Companies will have to use these to show what materials they use and what happens to them at the end of use.
Circularity is all about mindset! It is a chicken-and-egg story: once you start, the instruments will follow
To help companies realise their circular ambitions and prepare them for the digital product passport, FBBasic and Cirmar developed an application with C_passport® at its core. Within the application, companies have full view of the material composition of their products and their environmental impact. ‘At the moment, only 10 percent of all materials in Europe are recycled to some degree. We can do much more. The first step is to document all information we need to produce circular products. And that is exactly what Cirmar does!’
Documenting material information is an important start. However, a fully circular economy asks for a lot more to happen. That is why FBBasic has not only developed Cirmar, but helped numerous companies in various sectors that understood something has to happen improve their processes. ‘Circularity is all about mindset! It is a chicken-and-egg story: once you start, the instruments will follow. Luckily, the European Union is now aware of the necessity as well.’
But what does that circular supply chain look like? ‘It all starts with a circular design, aimed at reusing the product or underlying materials and components. Then you have to document the information in product passports. Additionally, you need to organise return logistics, refurbishment, recycling and next-use solutions. To strengthen the foundation of circular production, we work with partners on standards for physical-chemical characterisation of retrieved materials, as well as a uniform nomenclature. By speaking the same language, we can take the next step and grow towards the volumes of primary materials. A big challenge, but we will have to. And with concrete steps, we can do it!’
The time has come for more circular alternatives, says Frans. ‘Besides more strict legislation, increased material scarcity and geopolitical problems – one ship blocked a canal and we still feel it – more and more companies understand that underlying systems make a circular economy possible. That is good news, because the challenges we face will continue to ask for solutions.’ This may sound like a negative outlook, but the fact that materials present a way out, is good news according to Frans. ‘CO2 is a hot topic, but if we want to retrieve materials more intelligently, we automatically reduce emissions.’
‘If we use circular design to recover materials more intelligently, we automatically reduce emissions.’
The second reason we might see fast developments in the circular transition, is necessity. ‘The basis for the circular transition is purely economic: we have no other choice. That pressure means we can change more quickly. The consequences are clear: if we fail to achieve circular production, we will come to a standstill for a lack of materials.’
For ten years now, Frans is accelerating the circular economy with FBBasic and Cirmar. During those then years he has managed to do a lot, but he mainly wants to inspire others and let them know that it is worth the effort to realise the transition. ‘We created the non-circular system over the course of about a hundred years. It has become impossible to maintain. We do not have to change course completely in a few years, but we do have to start now and implement concrete solutions.’
Interested in putting circular production into practice? Discover our products, or get in touch with Frans at firstname.lastname@example.org