Scarcity from energy to minerals and metals will be a major long-term challenge for global economic growth. That means extracting the maximum value from raw materials makes good economic sense while working to close the gap on primary and secondary resource use. Closing this gap is core to the much-talked about circular economy. But where do we begin?
Maximising earth resources means building products to last and to be recycled
To my mind, optimizing resources still starts with designing and building products to last and to be recycled– 'good enough' is not in our lexicon. Metso's 100-year recycling business has grown from the amalgamation of two legacy machine makers, Lindemann in Germany and Danish M&J, both with products known for reliability and strength. When I was a child, my friend's father, who owned a scrap yard, used to say that the Lindemann Shredder was so strong, if another shredder broke down, you could just throw it into the Lindemann Shredder for recycling. Nowadays, if you throw a car into a Metso Shredder it comes out in pieces the size of a human fist – the shredder itself is the size of a small family home.
Steel remains core to metal recycling but as an industry it's cyclical and currently stuck in a prolonged downturn, which has led us to diversify into other areas of recycling and waste management. For example, we're creating solutions to help customers reclaim value from the precious non-ferrous metals or from materials sold as waste to energy. Even extracting and sorting various types of plastic waste is becoming an interesting stream of waste management. And there is room to grow, today only 15% of plastics used are recycled. Crushing, grinding, screening and separating things has always been core to Metso's business so developing new solutions for new kinds of urban mining where components and elements are reclaimed for recycling is a natural step for us.
Circular economy more than just recycling
But for Metso being circular is not only about our recycling business; it's about taking a closed loop approach to how our products are used and serviced in the different industries we serve. For example, what does a used pair of Levi's jeans have in common with a Metso Megaliner? Answer: they're both optimizing resource yields by circulating materials and components in used products back to use. But instead of mending zippers on once-created clothing, Metso's doing things like replacing, remanufacturing and recycling tons of rubber liners on grinding mills for mines.
Circular means tapping into a new kind of growth model
This new kind of 'product as service' business is also about providing expert life cycle services that help maximize the lifetime of any given customers operation. So you could say that being circular means keeping our processes and equipment at their highest value and utility, and prolonging their efficient lifetime in the most sustainable way.
Metso is one of the world leaders in everything we do. We have the knowledge, business curiosity and the responsibility to explore and expand into new opportunities the circular economy has to offer. Right now we're open to just about anything that can be tossed into our shredders– as long as the economics stack up and it's sustainable!