eCircular Online Workshop, 17.12.2020
Material Passports for a Circular Economy
On the 17th of December 2020, eCircular hosted an expert workshop on “Material Passports for a Circular Economy”. With regard to the currently rising discussion about product passports, eCircular picked up on the discourse and organised an interactive online event aimed to elucidate the role of digital material passports for the enablement of circular economy practices. Following the project focus of eCircular, the workshop addressed the role of digital material passports in the plastics cycle in particular and mainly experts from academia and business within the digital and plastics sector were invited.
The overall goal of the workshop was to improve mutual understanding as a basis for further discussions about the concrete design of the material passports concept, as well as the definition of following implications. Thus, the relevant questions discussed between the participants included the chances of material passports for circular economy strategies with regard to plastics as well as the scope and design requirements of the passport. Moreover, vital digital technologies for the implementation were identified.
It can be summarized, that the opportunities for the circular plastics economy are mainly seen in market enablement, facilitation of recycling, safety compliance and transparency improvements. However, discussing the scope and data contents on the passport quickly lead to the question of how essential transparency can be aligned with sensitive company data and competitive advantage. The participants agreed that the main issue regarding the implementation of material passports is not the technological feasibility, but rather the lack of an overall concept and standardization: “The technical toolkit is available but it is a matter of government issues and common will.” Thus, the tasks lying ahead include the setting of dynamic standards, the development of a framework applicable on various materials and the implementation of controlling governmental bodies.
Overall, it was concluded that the potential chances of material passports are a question of mindset. There is a need for a new information culture, and governmental regulation works as a driver for that.
The interactive format of the workshop allowed stimulating discussions and also the opportunity for networking and further cooperation on this increasingly important topic. Because as Holger Berg, host of the event in the name of eCircular, concluded: “One thing is for sure: In the near future we will have such a passport. The idea is emerging but it is not worked out as a concept yet. This work still needs to be done and the window of opportunity for us to do this work and send some messages is now.”