Dematerialization of plastic demand by digital technologies

By Alberto Bellini, Marco Chiani, Arianna Ruggeri, Alessandra Bonoli, Eleonora Foschi, Chiara Magrini *


Prevention of plastics by digital technologies

Plastic prevention is a mandatory action to fulfill the requirements of reduction of greenhouse emissions from the material sector. So far, discussions of industry emissions have focused on the supply side: reducing the emissions from the production of steel, cement, chemicals, etc. Far less attention has been given to the demand side: how a circular economy could help reducing emissions through better use and reuse of the materials already existing in the economy. […]

Plastic waste prevention applies to re-using, re-manufacturing or dematerialization. However, industries face several barriers to adopt these solutions. In facts, their adoption might require companies to re-design their business model and in some cases these solutions can be perceived as a risk in terms of the reduced turnover. Re-use and re-manufacturing processes highly benefit from the enhanced coordination between material and information flow. Specifically, the quantity and quality of products and of their raw materials must be gathered and retained throughout the lifetime. This would allow interoperability between materials and goods. Digital technologies are required to manage the information flow, to store information onto the material with reliable coding along the value chain, and to retrieve it with suitable data protection and accessibility. […] These technologies are individually available, however, many innovation processes are required to adapt them to circular economy and to plastic prevention.


Blockchain applications to foster circular economy

Nowadays, digital technologies have innovated the marketplace through centralized platforms, such as eBay and Airbnb. These platforms are based on two constraints: third-party centralised marketplace systems that control the flow of information and currency among participating parties; and firm-centric service. Can this approach be adapted to circular economy business models? Yes, it can. However, a major flaw is that consumers are typically degraded to no more than users. Hence, the consumers are relegated to simple roles, using, sharing and/ or separating waste for reuse or recycling . The model would be much more effective if the consumer can be empowered to engage and participate more actively in product reuse and recovery processes.

Blockchain may be the missing link that allows such consumer empowerment for achieving circular economy tomorrow. Blockchain-supported platforms facilitate peer-to-peer transactions without any middlemen. It means consumers can transact and pay each other directly and securely through a decentralized or globally distributed network. […] 

The advent of blockchain technology provides an unparalleled driver for peer-to-peer Circular Economy Business Models (CEBMs) to thrive. This technology applied to plastic waste prevention can support innovative tracking procedure that is able to improve transparency and to facilitate recycling, re-use and re-manufacturing processes. Finally, Blockchain technology can support information flow among multiple sectors increasing circular economy both at local and global value chain levels.


Learn more 

eCircular programme aims at enhancing regional and global ecosystems (i.e. Industry, Public institutions, Academia and Research Centres), commitment towards blockchain technology and other digital solutions contributing to plastic waste prevention. If you are interested in receiving further details on our strategies and innovation solutions portfolio, please contact Alberto Bellini, eCircular Programme coordinator.

If you are generally interested in the topic of circular economy and waste prevention, check this LinkedIn group


* The above blog entry is an excerpt from the full article. On behalf of the authors we invite you to learn more about this topic and the digital tools and applications that promote circular economy. Please find the full article with more details via the button below. 

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