Large companies and research institutions unite in circular economy project

Representatives of companies including Tetra Pak, Klabin and Sonoco have come together with institutions such as Fundação Getulio Vargas, the University of Sao Paulo, the Food Technology Institute and the Sao Paulo Technology Research Institute to think about solutions for solid waste management.
23 五月 2024
Large companies and research institutions unite in circular economy project

At the end of April, the Strategic Committee of the Research Center for the Development of Soluctions for Post-Consumer Waste (Packaging and Products), whose partners include Fundação Getulio Vargas’ Sao Paulo School of Business Administration (FGV EAESP), met to align its strategies. This recently created body aims to develop innovative solutions to tackle the problem of post-consumer waste.

The circular economy has gained prominence in academic, industrial and political circles as a model for reducing resource usage, waste and emissions. The idea is that it may generate economic, environmental and social benefits and thereby promote sustainable development.

The research center’s co-founders are Ambev, Boticário, Braskem, Klabin, Natura, Sonoco, Tetra Pak and the Sao Paulo State Agriculture Secretariat. It is also working with several research and education institutions, including FGV, the University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo State University, Campinas State University, the University of Brasilia, Western Santa Catarina University, Mato Grosso do Sul Federal University, the National Industrial Training Service (SENAI), the National Energy and Materials Research Center (CNPEM), the Sao Paulo Technology Research Institute and the Packaging Technology Center (CETEA) at the Campinas-based Food Technology Institute, which hosts the project.

The initiative’s main researcher, Professor Eloisa Garcia, explained that the proposal is not a simple one, as it involves multidisciplinary work. “That’s why it makes sense to have many institutions involved, creating a research network that strengthens academia and the market. The Strategic Committee’s mission is to prioritize projects and analyze their progress. We have a strategic vision for the new research center, based on the long-term goal of becoming a leader in urban solid waste management,” she said.

The project, which is co-financed by the Sao Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP), has the challenge of mobilizing government bodies, research institutions, universities and companies to solve problems and innovate together. Companies will contribute investment, staff, technical data and previous experiences, as well as critical analysis and practical applications.

Sílvia Dantas, a researcher and the director of CETEA, said that the Strategic Committee discussed the progress of 15 projects that are under way and announced some new proposals. “At the meeting, we set out to foster interaction between everyone in order to forge a single mindset, aligned with the center’s objectives. In the first year, we acquired equipment and structured the initiative’s governance. We’re learning a lot from our partner institutions and companies, as we proceed along a productive path that will bring good results for society,” she said.

FGV EAESP is contributing to the research center by leading its “Management and Innovation for the Circular Economy in Organizations and Chains” platform. This platform comprises several projects, including one called “Social Impact and Innovation: The Role of Waste Pickers in the Circular Economy.” The aim of this project is to develop innovative solutions and methodologies for including waste pickers in reverse logistics packaging chains. It is estimated that Brazil has around 800,000 waste pickers, many of whom are self-employed, while others belong to almost 2,000 cooperatives or associations of waste pickers, spread across nearly a thousand municipalities.

Susana Pereira, an FGV researcher and the coordinator of this platform (one of five created by the research center), said, “This initiative really responds to some demands that society has made of academia. FGV is among the pioneers in this type of project, and it is doing excellent work. We are contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals, training critical researchers and finding applicable and effective solutions for society. We are promoting practical connections between the market and academia.”

Maria Victória Santiago, an ESG analyst at packaging company Sonoco, said, “We entered into this partnership because our company often doesn’t have enough resources in-house to do all the work that is needed. Our aim is to promote technology and research, and to stay involved in the world of packaging recycling. We can support this project with our knowledge and learn here too. This type of partnership is still rare in Brazil.”

Valéria Michel, Tetra Pak’s sustainability director, stressed that her company has been working with waste management for 25 years, particularly with regard to long-life packaging, and it created a recycling chain for this product. “There was no recycling chain, so we built one and found out what works and what doesn’t. This practical knowledge in the field may be useful here and we can contribute to this project. We also want to learn from other companies and form partnerships. There’s no point in going it alone. Companies have to work together to apply solutions on a large scale, which is the big problem in Brazil at the moment,” she said.

Edson Pacheco, senior sustainability analyst at paper company Klabin, explained that the research center wants to promote integration between various players in the chain in order to boost circularity. “We believe that there is no way to promote this agenda alone. The challenges are enormous, money is scarce and there are a lot of people to manage. We now really understand how we are going to act on several fronts, starting from the development stage, thinking about post-consumption, the supply chain, waste pickers and legislation. It’s a long-term project for us,” he said.

To find out more about the Research Center for the Development of Solutions for Post-Consumer Waste (Packaging and Products), visit its website or follow its LinkedIn page.

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