Which tasks and goals do you pursue as an employee of Cradle to Cradle e.V.?
We want Cradle to Cradle to be taken for granted in the human thinking and acting of tomorrow. Following the example of nature, all waste will then also be a nutrient for us. The destructive concept of "waste" is no longer known to anyone. Everything consists of healthy and suitable materials. Usage scenarios are consistently thought through. Everything circulates in continuous cycles. Technological, biological and cultural diversity is firmly anchored everywhere. Energy is produced exclusively from renewable sources.
Working conditions are fair, social structures are intact. With the school of thought and the design concept of Cradle to Cradle, we leave people with a large positive footprint. Being less bad was yesterday. Ecological pangs of conscience too. We humans are beneficial creatures. As a donation-financed organisation, we support the implementation of this vision through our educational work. C2C NGO networks business, science, education, politics and civil society.
Our volunteers, who are organized nationwide, carry the idea of Cradle to Cradle into the world. Our congress is the world's largest C2C platform: over 1,000 participants from the C2C community meet key figures from science, business and politics here every year. Forums, lectures and workshops offer space for exchange and networking. In 2019, we established the C2C LAB in Berlin: the world's first comprehensive refurbishment of an existing commercial unit according to C2C criteria. As an educational centre, NGO head office and real laboratory, the school of thought and design concept can be experienced in practice. Everyone who wants to get involved in creating a positive footprint can become active with us.
What perspectives and special fields of application do you see for the recycling industry in the future? In conjunction with this, what are the main reasons for introducing environmental management systems and thus the idea of material cycles?
We work to ensure that Cradle to Cradle is applied as a holistic approach in all industries and areas of life. From agriculture and industrial production to the service sector. Cradle to Cradle differs from what is generally referred to as the circular economy. It only deals with the question of recycling products or materials once the end of their use has been reached. Cradle to Cradle, on the other hand, starts with the design of products and already develops them in such a way that they can circulate in either the technical or biological cycle after use.
There are several reasons why Cradle to Cradle is necessary. After all, products should all be healthy for people and the environment. This is not the case today. Another reason is the finite nature of resources. No matter whether it is oil, metals or rare earths: ...everything is finite on our planet. So it is only logical to move away from the current economic system "from the cradle to the grave" and instead let all materials circulate in continuous biological and technical cycles - "from the cradle to the cradle". Each product must be developed for a specific use scenario. And derived from this, suitable materials that are harmless to humans and the environment must be used for production. They must be either biodegradable or separable by type and recyclable and reusable without loss of quality. In this way, resource extraction and the concept of waste will become superfluous in the long term.
For which target group do you think the recycling industry will become more important in the future?
In our view, true recycling management, which starts with the design of products, is relevant for all social groups. Politics must set framework conditions that promote companies that are able to operate in a recyclable manner.
Companies must manufacture the corresponding products. And consumers can help decide how we will live in the future through their actions. This cascade must begin with politics. Products and production methods that harm people and pollute the environment must not be subsidised any further. Rather, the costs of the damage caused by them (externalities) must be charged to the polluters.
Where do you see possibilities to better support the research field?
We supervise master's theses related to the topic Cradle to Cradle. In addition, our managing directors Nora Sophie Griefahn and Tim Janßen give lectures on the topic, mainly in business or management courses, among others at the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University. We would not only welcome chairs for Cradle to Cradle, but also if C2C were to play a role in all curricula and thus develop into a more concrete, interdisciplinary field of research.
However, this would also require significantly more research funding to be channelled into this area. Cradle to Cradle is closely linked to design and entrepreneurship, beyond its relation to economics. In the area of product design alone, there are dozens of starting points as to how Cradle to Cradle could be better promoted in universities, in research and also on the way to practical application.
Which approaches and fields of cooperation are particularly interesting for you?
Currently, we see Cradle to Cradle as the biggest lever in communities, in the construction and architecture sector and in the textile industry. On the one hand, the construction and textile industries are among the most energy- and water-intensive industries, and on the other hand, they are very waste-intensive. In Germany, for example, the construction industry accounts for around 60% of the total volume of waste produced. The textile industry is responsible for a large proportion of the toxic substances that pollute water.
In both industries there is a growing awareness that a different way of doing business is urgently needed. In both sectors, knowledge of Cradle to Cradle and the benefits of the approach is therefore relatively advanced compared to other industries. In the construction industry, we have shown with the C2C LAB in Berlin - our head office, real-life laboratory and training centre - that Cradle to Cradle is also a way to create healthy and resource-saving living space when renovating existing buildings.
The LAB should serve as an example and model for architects and clients. As Germany's largest procurers, cities and municipalities can also make a significant contribution to making Cradle to Cradle better known and implementing it on a broad scale. We therefore advise municipalities on the implementation of C2C strategies, including the joint development of appropriate procurement guidelines.
Do you make use of funding opportunities within the framework of the circular economy?
We use funding pools within the scope of our legal possibilities. Since we ourselves do not carry out any research in the narrower sense, these are limited, however. Currently, applications are being made for various calls of the European Horizon 2020 programme, also in cooperation with other institutions. In addition, we are also applying for funding from the German Federal Environment Agency and the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development program.
More information: www.c2c-ev.de
The interview was conducted by Marlen Krause.