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You are required to discuss how companies that adopt circular economy principles increase their economic and social efficiency and minimise their environmental impact.

 

Answer:

Background Information about Alteo Mauritius

Alteo Limited is a sugar milling company which is situated in Mauritius. The company’s vision is to be a sustainable regional leader in the sugarcane industry, renewable energy and property. Its vision on the other hand is to responsibly create value through people development, strategic partnerships, innovative thinking, market focus and operational excellence. The company has several values including respect (being considerate of each other's feelings and views), integrity, spirit of entrepreneurship (triggers the ability to conceive ideas with a fresh outlook and generate bold and brilliant projects that will enhance development), and excellence (pushing further relentlessly).

The company’s products and services include production of sugar, electricity and molasses from sugarcane, and conducting Corporate Social Responsibility programs aimed at benefitting the community in which the company operates. Consumers of the company products include locals in Mauritius while some are exported to the European Union.

Introduction To Circular Economy

The Concept of Circular Economy

A circular economy is a type of regenerative system where material input, emitted wastes and energy leakages are all minimized by way of closing and reducing energy and material loops. This can be accomplished by use of long-lasting designs, proper maintenance and repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishment, recycling and upcycling (Murray, Skene, and Haynes, 2017, 369-380).

It is argued that for a sustainable world to be achieved, it does not require changes in the quality of consumers’ lives or loss of revenue and other extra costs on the part of manufacturers and other agents of the economy. It is argued that circular business models can also be profitable just like linear business models and still consumers the opportunity to enjoy similar products and services like those produced in linear models. Circular economy’s focus is on such areas as design thinking, extension of product life, systems thinking and recycling (Yuan, Bi, and Moriguichi, 2006, 4-8).

A circular economy model aims at moving away from practices in the linear business model which is characterized by the “take, make, dispose” industrial processes. The lifestyles which depend on such industrial processes deplete limited resources in the creation of products that end up being buried under the earth or in furnaces which burn refuse. This reality triggered a number of scientists to think about how this norm can be changed (Su, 2013, 215-227).

A circular economy model distinguishes between biological cycles. In biological cycle, there is consumption; where food and other biologically-based materials like wood are meant to feed back into the economic system through such processes as decomposition and aerobic digestion. The cycles then regenerate living systems, for example, soil which provides renewable resources in the economy. Technical cycles on the other hand are concerned with the recovery and restoration of products, components and materials by application of strategies such as reuse, repair, remanufacture or recycling (usually the last resort) (Lieder, and Rashid, 2016, 36-51).

The concept of circular economy is deep historically and philosophically. The idea of feeding back which is present in cycles in the real-world systems begun long ago and has its origins in various schools of philosophy.

Characteristics of Circular Economy

The circular economy exhibits the following characteristics;

The economic system is naturally adaptable and strong.

The economic system is able to respond to system shocks and crises since it has governance systems, motivational factors and mechanisms in place. This ranges from power distribution, information network structures and having back-up systems in place to ensure the system can still continue working in case of failures (Geissdoerfer, 2017, 757-768).

Human activities generate value in financial and other measures.

Availability of materials and energy is finite in measure. Thus, there use should be purposeful and should lead to a positive contribution to the creation of value in the society. The kind of values which are beyond the financial category include emotional, aesthetic and ecological. All these measures should be recognized as value categories on their own since they cannot be linked with each other so as to come up with one common measure.

There exists support for the health and wellbeing of humans and other available species.

In this economy, there is elimination of toxic and hazardous substances. It the transition phase to the circular economy, the toxic and hazardous substances are minimized as possible and kept in cycles which are highly controlled. The economic activities in a circular economy poses no threat human health or their wellbeing (Ghisellini, Cialani, and Ulgiati, 2016, 11-32).

There is preservation human society and culture.

It is important to preserve human cultures and social cohesion since they are forms of diversity and complexity in an economy. In this economy, processes and organizations are a reflection of the needs of the affected stakeholders. This economy seeks to avoid activities undermine the existence or wellbeing of specific human cultures structurally (Andersen, 2007, 133-140).

There is support for and enhancement of biodiversity through all human activities.

A circular economy acts on the principle of preserving complexity. For the economy to be able to recover from depressions, then there must be preservation of ecological diversity. Biodiversity is prioritized over material and energy losses. It is better to experience loss in material and energy for the sake of preserving diversity. Efforts are made so as to protect rare habitats so that they are not encroached upon or structurally damaged through human activities (Sauvé, Bernard, and Sloan, 2016, 48-56).

All the energy used is based on renewable sources.

The system exhibits maximum energy efficiency without affecting system performance and service output. There is recovery of materials used for generation of energy and storage technologies back to the system since the materials are designed to be recovered in the system with ease. There is intelligent preservation of energy and the energy is also cascaded in cases where there are lower values of energy for use. The level of energy consumption is equal to the level of energy which is available locally.

Materials are cycled at continuous high value.

Preservation of material complexity is prioritized through cascading them for as long as it may take.  The designs of material cycles are such that they are of lengths which are applicable to human timescale, appropriate to the natural cycles which they are connected to, equated to scarcity of materials and short geographically. Materials are mixed in such a manner that they can be separated and purely recovered unless there is possibility for them to cycle endlessly in their mixed form and at high value. Also, materials are only used when it is necessary (Zhijun, and Nailing, 2007, 95-101).

Drivers of the Circular Economy

The circular economy is an approach that aims to move from linear consumption towards reuse. The four main principles of circular economy are as discussed below;

  1. There is no wastage of materials and energy in a true circular economy. In a circular economy, nothing is thrown away. This is because waste is used in the making of several things for repair, disassembly and reuse.
  2. In a circular economy, there are two kinds of inputs; disposable and durable inputs. Disposable inputs are those that are biodegradable, for example, fabric, paper, etc. Durable inputs are those that can be reused and they include metal and plastic. Everything that is used under circular economy must belong to one of these two categories to make it possible for it to be reused or put back into nature. It should also be possible for more complex things to be broken down for them to fit into these two categories at the end of their lives.
  3. The energy that powers such an industry should be entirely renewable for the industrial cycle to be sustainable. This will make it possible for a business to reduce frequent exposures to depletion of required resources or supply dilemmas.
  4. In circular economy, customers are considered to be users and not consumers. This implies that after the customers are done with using the materials, businesses will still want them back for reuse. This may imply being given incentives to return materials to businesses at the end of their useful life on the part of the customer or it may imply that customers lease, rent or share the materials with businesses.

Importance of the Circular Economy

Economic growth.

This is measured in terms of the GDP. Economic growth is realized in terms of reduction in production costs since the number of circular activities is increased. Circular economy leads to use of less resources, extraction of less raw materials and thus little expenditure on extraction of raw materials. Demand and supply are affected since there will be changes in input and output of economic production activities. The changes may include increase in household income as a result of increased labor compensation. This in turn leads to increase in savings and expenditure on buying commodities Tukker, 2015, 76-91).

Employment creation.

Jobs are created in all sectors of the industry as a result of development small and medium enterprises which implement new logistical technologies and ways of doing business.

Environmental benefit.

Circular economy enables reduction carbon dioxide emission. The economy also results in reduction of primary material consumption which are measured in terms of real estate land, synthetic fertilizer, agricultural water use, pesticides, construction materials, etc. (Ning, 2001).

Replacement of goods in the linear economy with those that are circular in design and the creation of logistical facilities suitable for circular economy offers businesses the opportunity to use new ideas thus helping them to generate new channels of income (Jawahir, and Bradley, 2016, 103-108).

Savings in net material cost.

By employing economy in the use of raw materials costs associated with acquisition of raw materials are greatly reduced since lower levels of raw materials are used in production. This leads to cost savings in acquisition of raw materials

The role of circular supply chains in supporting restorative processes advocated by the circular economy

A circular supply chain has the following benefits (Despeisse, 2017,75-84);

  • A circular supply chain reduces wastage, provides alternative sources of inputs and takes advantage of the original forward supply chain management.
  • Consumer power. Currently, customers expect to return products they don’t like anymore or which they purchased and have not been used. As a result of this, there is growth in the circular supply chain since materials are reused (Genovese, 2017, 344-357).

Alteo Mauritius Operations and Supply Chain based on Circular Economy

Alteo group is a sugar milling company based in Mauritius. Its business model, that is, in terms of its operations and supply chain are in line with how a circular economy operates. The company has classified its activities into different categories based on what is carried out under each category. The different categories are; Alteo Agri, Alteo milling limited, Alteo refinery limited and Alteo energy limited. We are going to look at each categories and the activities that are performed under each one of them to see how they incorporate the circular economy principles and characteristics (Lewandowski, 2016, 43)

Alteo Agri

Alteo agri manages up to 11.400 hectares of land under sugarcane cultivation all located in Mauritius. There has been witnessed implementation of adapted technology and cultural practices in this sector which have enabled the company to achieve substantial gains in terms of efficiency through overhead costs management and improvement in overall productivity. The company has also invested maximally in agricultural and transport equipment, increased the levels of mechanization in its agricultural activities and applied efficient irrigation methods which will ultimately lead reduction in the overall costs of production for the company. This will greatly help the company in developing its competitive advantage so as to be able to compete favorably and increase its profit margins. There has been introduction of appropriate technologies on a large scale including a GPS guidance system and a Geographical Information System which will greatly improve the decision making process, guarantee efficiency in company operations and thus maximize the yields (GAO, CHEN, and LIANG, 2007, 22).

Alteo milling limited

Alteo milling is currently the remaining sugar milling operation located to the east of Mauritius. Its location at Union Flaq has reduced sugarcane transportation costs significantly. It has the capacity of processing 1.5 million tonnes of sugarcane which come from around its own factory area and from DRBC’s factory area following its closure. The company has witnessed an increase in sugarcane tonnage since it has to process sugarcane coming from DRBC’s factory area. Since there is no wastage of resources in the circular economy, the company has devised ways of ensuring that all the cane is absorbed and that nothing goes to waste. The company has therefore come up with investment plans which are aimed at achieving this objective with emphasis on;

  • Further automation of processes which aims at reducing production costs and improve sugar recoveries.
  • Expansion of the front end capacity.
  • Approaching environmental issues in an integrated manner.
  • Introduction of milling technology able to achieve higher calorific value bagasse for energy production (Bundhoo, 2017).
  • Savings on steam which will in turn result to optimum internal thermal combustion.

This new operation will capitalize and expand on the company’s expertise as far as sugar production is concerned. This will help the company to achieve its objective of being a world leader in producing and distributing sugar which specifically processed for direct consumption. This also includes higher value Demerara and Moscovado sugars. As a result of the company having a larger production base, more efficient operations and producing high value products, it will to a financially stable sugar milling company in future.

Alteo refinery limited

Alteo refinery operates a back end refinery which has an operating capacity of 170,000 tonnes. The company is concerned with refining locally produced and imported white sugar. Alteo has been able to increase its sugar production by importing larger volumes of raw sugar which is later sold to the local and regional market, and some exported to the European Union. The company also has plans to explore the potential to produce higher added value products from white refined sugar and by-products of refinin

Alteo energy limited

Alteo energy has been in operation since 1984 and operates two bagasse plants which supply energy to the national grid (Beeharry, 1996, 441-449). As a result of closure of DRBC and expansion of Alteo milling capacity, Alteo energy has been benefitted greatly from the extra bagasse available for generation of renewable energy (Beeharry, 2001, 421-429). This development helps the company to use renewable sources of energy which are healthy to the environment (Surroop, and Raghoo, 2017, 688-694

Conclusion

In conclusion, a circular economy tends to move away from the norm of linear of “take, make, dispose” by ensuring that materials are reused. This type of economy ensures nothing goes to waste so that the economy can sustain itself for a much longer period without the need of having to extract more materials. Whatever is available is used economically till the end of its usability life. We have tried to bring out a picture of the circular economy by looking at Alteo Mauritius, a sugar milling company located in Mauritius and how it uses all the resources available to ensure there is no wastage and putting by-products into use like use of bagasse in generation of electricity.

References

Bundhoo, Z.M., 2017. Renewable energy exploitation in the small island developing state of Mauritius: Current practice and future potential. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Surroop, D. and Raghoo, P., 2017. Energy landscape in Mauritius. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, 73, pp.688-694.

Beeharry, R.P., 2001. Strategies for augmenting sugarcane biomass availability for power production in Mauritius. Biomass and Bioenergy, 20(6), pp.421-429.

Beeharry, R.P., 1996. Extended sugarcane biomass utilisation for exportable electricity production in Mauritius. Biomass and bioenergy, 11(6), pp.441-449.

Lewandowski, M., 2016. Designing the business models for circular economy—Towards the conceptual framework. Sustainability, 8(1), p.43.

Yuan, Z., Bi, J. and Moriguichi, Y., 2006. The circular economy: A new development strategy in China. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10(1?2), pp.4-8.

Tukker, A., 2015. Product services for a resource-efficient and circular economy–a review. Journal of cleaner production, 97, pp.76-91.

Ghisellini, P., Cialani, C. and Ulgiati, S., 2016. A review on circular economy: the expected transition to a balanced interplay of environmental and economic systems. Journal of Cleaner production, 114, pp.11-32.

Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N.M. and Hultink, E.J., 2017. The Circular Economy–A new sustainability paradigm?. Journal of cleaner production, 143, pp.757-768.

Murray, A., Skene, K. and Haynes, K., 2017. The circular economy: An interdisciplinary exploration of the concept and application in a global context. Journal of Business Ethics, 140(3), pp.369-380.

Sauvé, S., Bernard, S. and Sloan, P., 2016. Environmental sciences, sustainable development and circular economy: Alternative concepts for trans-disciplinary research. Environmental Development, 17, pp.48-56.

Lieder, M. and Rashid, A., 2016. Towards circular economy implementation: a comprehensive review in context of manufacturing industry. Journal of Cleaner production, 115, pp.36-51.

Andersen, M.S., 2007. An introductory note on the environmental economics of the circular economy. Sustainability Science, 2(1), pp.133-140.

Genovese, A., Acquaye, A.A., Figueroa, A. and Koh, S.L., 2017. Sustainable supply chain management and the transition towards a circular economy: Evidence and some applications. Omega, 66, pp.344-357.

Zhijun, F. and Nailing, Y., 2007. Putting a circular economy into practice in China. Sustainability Science, 2(1), pp.95-101.

Jawahir, I.S. and Bradley, R., 2016. Technological elements of circular economy and the principles of 6R-based closed-loop material flow in sustainable manufacturing. Procedia Cirp, 40, pp.103-108.

GAO, W.S., CHEN, Y.Q. and LIANG, L., 2007. Basic Principles and Technology Supporting for Circular Agriculture Development [J]. Research of Agricultural Modernization, 6, p.22.

Su, B., Heshmati, A., Geng, Y. and Yu, X., 2013. A review of the circular economy in China: moving from rhetoric to implementation. Journal of Cleaner Production, 42, pp.215-227.

Ning, D.U.A.N., 2001. Cleaner production, eco-industry and circular economy [J]. Research of Environmental Sciences, 6(000).

Despeisse, M., Baumers, M., Brown, P., Charnley, F., Ford, S.J., Garmulewicz, A., Knowles, S., Minshall, T.H.W., Mortara, L., Reed-Tsochas, F.P. and Rowley, J., 2017. Unlocking value for a circular economy through 3D printing: A research agenda. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 115, pp.75-84.

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