Ida Auken: Thank you so much, and I’m very pleased to be invit­ed. Now what I want to tell you is that in 2050 we don’t even have waste any­more. There will be no waste in 2050. Everything will be seen as a trea­sure, because we will have cre­at­ed what some smart peo­ple call a cir­cu­lar econ­o­my. And I will take you through four steps of the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my. I will tell you what it is, why it is hap­pen­ing right now, how it’s going to be brought for­ward, and who’s going to do it. So that’s the four things I’m gonna take you through.

First of all, what is the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my? The cir­cu­lar econ­o­my is in a way the oppo­site econ­o­my of the one we have today. Today we have very much a lin­ear econ­o­my. We take some­thing, we take some mate­ri­als. We mine them. We take them out of the ground. We cut some trees down or some­thing. We use them for a lit­tle while, and then we turn them into trash. That’s where it ends: the line. And that is sort of a take, make, waste econ­o­my. But the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my is actu­al­ly tak­ing some­thing, and already when you design it, before you take it into use, you think about its next life. So you actu­al­ly design for reuse. So all mate­ri­als will be cir­cu­lat­ing. And this actu­al­ly elim­i­nates waste. 

Do we know this con­cept from some­where? I think a lot of you peo­ple work­ing with agri­cul­ture and with food, it’s pret­ty nat­ur­al for you guys to think about the cycle. Because actu­al­ly that’s what nature has been doing for bil­lions of years. Imagine if nature had pro­duced waste, I think the whole plan­et would just have been turned into waste now, right? We would nev­er real­ly have been here. So nature would not accept the con­cept of waste. It’s much smarter than that. So actu­al­ly by look­ing at nature and try­ing to map some of nature’s process­es we get an idea of how we can cre­ate a cir­cu­lar econ­o­my, how we can make every­thing flow. 

And the peo­ple that have thought this out are a chemist and archi­tect. And they’re think­ing about two cir­cles that should be cir­cu­lat­ing. One is the bio­log­i­cal cir­cle. That is the one we’ve been talk­ing a lot about today. Nutrients going back to the soil, turned into food, going through us as peo­ple being rein­car­nat­ed, and being spit out again as what­ev­er comes out of us, and turned again to food. And that’s actu­al­ly a very nat­ur­al and an old cycle. 

The oth­er cycle will be the tech­ni­cal cycle. That will be all the mate­ri­als that you know as gold, rare earth mate­ri­als, met­als, all of these technical…they will be going in anoth­er cir­cle. So I’m gonna tell you how this all is going to take place, but I will first tell you why it’s hap­pen­ing right now. 

So of course I think a lot of peo­ple are here and for eth­i­cal rea­sons you think it’s the right thing to do, right? And sus­tain­abil­i­ty’s right; it’s some­thing about our kids and the future and what­ev­er. But you know what’s a real­ly real­ly strong dri­ving force at the moment? Market. The prices. Resource prices. 

So, I’ve now moved to the why. Why right now? So if you go back to your grand­par­ents’ or your great-grandparents’ time, go back to around 1900. I think it’s about the time when you and I went to a Jazzhouse and danced for a night, was­n’t it? So no, go back all the way to 1900. I’m not sure Jazzhouse was built at that time. 

So from 1900 till 2000, we just saw resource prices—metal, cement, water, what­ev­er; oil, gas—coming down, every year. From 1900 to 2000. And most of you will remem­ber in 2000 if your print­er ran out of ink, it was more expen­sive to ask some­body to change the ink than to buy a new print­er, right. So things had got­ten so cheap…resources. So this has been the the move. 

And then from 2000 till today, resource prices have come up more than they went down the pre­vi­ous 100 years. So in your grand­par­en­t’s lives every­thing became cheap­er and cheap­er, and now just in fif­teen years it’s been com­plete­ly flipped around. So when we go back to that time, every­thing was eat­en. Everything was reused. Everything was repaired. Because it was worth some­thing. And when we go back today, this is the trend that has com­plete­ly turned around. And we’re going back to the times of our grandparents. 

And why is this hap­pen­ing? Is this some kind of smart mar­ket move, know­ing every­thing? No, it’s of course hap­pen­ing because we are 7 bil­lion peo­ple now on the plan­et. We’re going up to 9 bil­lion. Think about 3 bil­lion peo­ple enter­ing the mid­dle class, all want­i­ng cars, mobile phones, com­put­ers, eat­ing meat. I mean, this is a huge pres­sure on the resources we have, and that’s why the prices have come up so dra­mat­i­cal­ly the last fif­teen years. So when we start using all the the parts of the ani­mals it’s also because we need to do it. So it’s going to hap­pen because the price sig­nal’s so strong. 

The cir­cu­lar econ­o­my is also hap­pen­ing because infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy has gone the oppo­site. I mean infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy has done the oppo­site move, right? Resource prices fif­teen years, tech­nol­o­gy prices this way. [mim­ing a rise for resources and drop for tech­nol­o­gy] All of you I know you turned off your cell phones, but stick your hand in the pock­et and feel your cell phone. Okay. When you go back to 1998, I know I was danc­ing here at Jazzhouse at that time, so it’s not ancient times. Go back to 1998. The American gov­ern­ment paid $52 mil­lion for a com­put­er with the same pow­er as your smart­phone. So that’s just sev­en­teen years that infor­ma­tion has become so inex­pen­sive. So these are the two trends that are behind the whole cir­cu­lar econ­o­my and the rea­son why it’s happening. 

So how do we get to this place where we actu­al­ly make sure that every­thing is recy­cled? I see four big busi­ness mod­els that are dri­ving a lot of this. I could talk about what the politi­cians are doing and should be doing, but I will leave that out. I will try to tell what peo­ple are doing out there—consumers and pro­duc­ers, and some of the peo­ple that are actu­al­ly mov­ing this rapid­ly at the moment. 

Okay so the first thing that is hap­pen­ing of the four hows, is that we see a lot of pro­duc­ers hav­ing a cir­cu­lar input to the pro­duc­tion. They use renew­able ener­gy, or they use recy­cled plas­tics, or they use recy­cled met­als. Or here in Kalundborg some of you might know the sym­bio­sis where there’s a big pow­er plant, and the waste from that pow­er plant, the waste heat, is used in the next busi­ness for ener­gy input. And the waste­water from this one is used as cool­ing water in the next. And the sur­plus of nutri­ents are used in the next busi­ness. So they all use each oth­er’s waste as a resource. And this is hap­pen­ing at a rapid speed at the moment. Just five or ten years ago you would see big pro­duc­ers of cloth­ing that would just leave the spare parts, they would just be left on the floor. Now it’s a busi­ness to pick up that waste and turn it into new cloth. So we’re see every­where that waste is seen as a resource, and that the waste from one com­pa­ny is the resource of anoth­er. And the biggest com­pa­nies of the world are just elim­i­nat­ing waste because it’s such a big post on their bud­get. So it’s now turn­ing into something…to the trea­sure. So that’s the first thing the first, the first very big move that we see at the moment from some of the biggest businesses. 

So the sec­ond is reman­u­fac­tur­ing. That you take some­thing and that you use it again. There are dif­fer­ent kinds of reman­u­fac­tur­ing. So I could tell you about BMW that pro­duces cars. BMW found out in 2010 that if they reused the plas­tics and the met­als from the cars, that they could save 10% on each car. And if you think about how hard the com­pe­ti­tion is, hav­ing a German car pro­duc­er with Asian car pro­duc­ers where the wages are low­er, sav­ing 10% per car’s quite a lot. And then you start design­ing your car dif­fer­ent­ly. If you want to take out the met­als and the plas­tic, you design your car com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. So BMW is tak­ing back their cars, reusing plas­tics and metals. 

Another exam­ple could be Maersk, Maersk Line has Triple E ship that when this ship is done sail­ing the oceans of the world, it will not be turned into haz­ardous waste that should be beached some­where in Bangladesh and poor peo­ple will take it apart. No it’s actu­al­ly a valu­able piece of mate­r­i­al because they know exact­ly what’s in the ship. They know how to get out the met­als, they get out the plas­tic, get out all the valu­able things in this ship. So it’s turned not to waste but to a resource because it’s designed smart.

Another way of think­ing of reman­u­fac­tur­ing is some­body like Rolls-Royce. They’re actu­al­ly tak­ing out the engines or the cat­a­lysts, or all of the parts of the car and reusing it. We see a lot of com­pa­nies now spe­cial­iz­ing in fix­ing spare parts for big machiner­ies. We see repair stores pop­ping up every­where. So reman­u­fac­tur­ing is actu­al­ly a very strong move at the moment. And I think fer­ment­ing is a way of reman­u­fac­tur­ing food, so instead of turn­ing it all the way into waste and then back to the soil and back to peo­ple, you can actu­al­ly keep it at a high­er val­ue, keep it as food. And reman­u­fac­tur­ing is a lot about keep­ing mate­ri­als at the high­est pos­si­ble val­ue and recy­cling it at that stage. 

And the third thing I will point to is a very big move that’s hap­pen­ing at the moment from prod­uct to ser­vice. I have a friend, he says every prod­uct is a ser­vice wait­ing to hap­pen. If you think about it I mean your cell­phone? Why do you want to own your cell phone? How many of you own your cell phones? How many know if the com­pa­ny owns it? It’s actu­al­ly not a lot. I mean, you want the func­tion, you want the ser­vice, right? Why do you want to own a cell phone if you can just lease it? And if you lease, why should­n’t you lease your refrig­er­a­tor, or your wash­ing machine, or our dish­wash­er. Why do you want to own it? I mean it’s not like the plas­tic and the met­al is like, You! I own it.” A bro­ken dish­wash­er. I mean wow. 

No, why don’t you want to go into a busi­ness mod­el where the com­pa­ny owns it? You know what hap­pens when the com­pa­ny owns it? Actually, they can bring down the prices because they don’t have to buy new met­al and new plas­tic. They design a much bet­ter prod­uct, it lasts a lot longer, if they have to pick it up when it breaks. They might even send some­body to fix it. And in the end, they will do a bet­ter prod­uct and you will get a low­er price. And all the math is done on this, and it’s McKinsey so if some­body thinks I’m like a green freak talk­ing about stuff this is actu­al­ly cal­cu­lat­ed by McKinsey that it’s much cheap­er to lease a wash­ing machine if you get the busi­ness mod­el right because you don’t have to own all of this. So this change from prod­uct to ser­vice is push­ing a lot of the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my because the sec­ond the busi­ness owns the prod­ucts they start design­ing in a way where every­thing can be tak­en out and reused. And then you get the incen­tives right. 

And the fourth is the whole shar­ing econ­o­my. So if we start to share things, we can pro­duce much bet­ter things that are used much more intense­ly. Think about a car. Do you know how much a car dri­ves, how much of his life? 4%. 4% is how much a car dri­ves. Or if you take a drill, it’s used to fif­teen min­utes? It’s not a lot, is it? And most of us, we— I know there are some guys here that real­ly love to own a drill. But for the rest of us we just want a hole in a wall, right. And I think we’re going to a place where we just want mobil­i­ty, where we don’t care so much about own­ing a car, it’s actu­al­ly a bit of trou­ble. If it just becomes a dri­ver­less car and picks me up and I can dri­ve around, this car will be dri­ving all the time. 

So I think we are mov­ing to this, and also because of infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy it’s now pos­si­ble to share things in a much more intel­li­gent way, where we don’t feel all the time that this is some­thing that we can­not trust or some­thing that is a lit­tle bit dirty, or some­thing that— I mean, car­share for long time was a prob­lem because peo­ple left stuff in the car so it was a lit­tle bit…disgusting. But now you rate peo­ple, so you don’t leave stuff in the car, you just behave bet­ter. So the infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy has made it much more easy to share things and much more easy to dis­trib­ute. And I think the sec­ond we get dri­ver­less cars, and we know they are there, and they’re on the street why should a car be stand­ing still 96% of the time? It will start dri­ving. And when the car has such a high val­ue because it’s dri­ving all the time, of course you design it in a way that every­thing can be tak­en out. I know Apple are look­ing at their phones now to see if they can get out all the rare earth mate­ri­als, the gold, the sil­ver, every­thing. Because if you take a pile of elec­tron­ic waste it has more gold in it than a gold mine does. So we’re just…losing it at the moment. So the sec­ond we start to use things much more intense­ly, and we will do that with the shar­ing econ­o­my, I think this will also push the idea that we will have no more waste. 

So I hope that I have con­vinced you, because now I’m mov­ing to my fourth point: who? It’s you guys. You’re the ones who’re going to make this hap­pen. So of course we can set up some kind of frame­work. We can make the right peo­ple meet. I mean, as a politi­cian some­times you need— I mean if you want to recy­cle plas­tic, for instance pack­ag­ing, you need to get enough munic­i­pal­i­ties to col­lect the plas­tic waste. You need to get some­body to build a waste sep­a­ra­tion plant where you can get the plas­tic out in five streams. You need to con­nect the retail­ers to actu­al­ly stop pro­duc­ing, or only using pack­ag­ing that fits into the sys­tem. You have to get the con­sumers to bring things back, either in the bin or at the supermarket. 

But it’s actu­al­ly all of us. I mean it’s not some­thing that politi­cians can do. It’s not some­thing we can do alone. It’s some­thing the sec­ond where you start see­ing the cir­cle, as soon as you look at a chair or at what­ev­er you’re sur­round­ing your­self with as some­thing that should be able to be sep­a­rat­ed and you should be know­ing exact­ly where you want to put it. I mean you should not be in doubt. I just know this goes into this this, and this goes into that, and noth­ing goes into this one that goes to incin­er­a­tion or land­fill­ing. It all goes some­where and it’s smart. 

So I real­ly want to urge all of you to think about your role in the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my. If you’re design­er, if you’re an indus­tri­al design­er, if you’re an archi­tect, if you’re a chef, I think you have a role to play to make sure that we get the mate­ri­als where they want to go. So to go to the farmer here, we should not be fight­ing over phos­pho­rus and nitro­gen as pol­lu­tion. We should agree that it is a lost resource. We should find ways of doing pre­ci­sion farm­ing, where you actu­al­ly mea­sure. So if you think about it, like this guy told me that— Can I bor­row phone, does any­body have a phone? Yeah. So he told me, this guy, he’s a mad guy but I real­ly love him. 

So he said okay, so imag­ine mol­e­cules and resources, they go like this; infor­ma­tion goes goes like this. [again mim­ing a rise for resources and drop for tech­nol­o­gy] We have to be some­where else on that scale. So, think about this as a trac­tor. So you can actu­al­ly be going over your field and it will know exact­ly how much potas­si­um, how much phos­pho­rus, how much nitro­gen should be fer­til­ized every­where. So what does this give you? It does­n’t give you the econ­o­my of scale, it gives you the econ­o­my of small scale. It makes all of us very very effi­cient at a small scale. It’s pret­ty smart, isn’t it? We don’t have to have only— You know, we saw this chart of going from 140,000 farms to 40,000 because of large-scale advan­tage. We don’t need to do that. Because we can have small-scale advan­tage, using tech­nol­o­gy in a much smarter way. Using dis­tri­b­u­tion in a much smarter way. So we don’t have to do this to be effi­cient. And if you don’t believe what I’m say­ing think about Airbnb, or think about Uber. They did a plat­form. They gave every­body an oppor­tu­ni­ty to do econ­o­my of small scale. Because they had a smarter way of doing it. 

So I’m sure we are right in front of some­thing like this that might go into to the whole agri­cul­tur­al sec­tor and will pro­duce food much clos­er to where we con­sume it. And we’ll have it dis­trib­uted in a much eas­i­er and bet­ter way because of the tech­nol­o­gy. And I hope you guys will also play a role here. I cer­tain­ly hope that I have inspired you a lit­tle bit. And okay, so I know that some of you guys… I have to say this. [walks to side of stage, return­ing with two dis­pos­able water bot­tles] All night I’ve been watch­ing these fuck­ers on stage. Okay, what the hell? Why are we drink­ing old, dis­gust­ing water import­ed from some­where in plas­tic bot­tles with chem­i­cals? Why? Can any­body explain it to me? So okay. So, if I haven’t con­vinced about any­thing about the cir­cu­lar econ­o­my, can I just please… You’re the guys mov­ing the world, right? Put a fat­wa on these things. We don’t need them. It does­n’t taste nice. It does­n’t even have sparkles or bub­bles. I mean this is ridicu­lous­ly waste. So, I just want to say thank you for tonight, and I hope you have a won­der­ful night! [throws bot­tles in the air; audi­ence clap­ping and cheer­ing]