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What does the circular future actually look like? – Key takes from Nordic Circular Summit 2021

Nordic Circular Summit is a yearly occasion centered around the topic of circular economy in the Nordics, co-hosted by Nordic Circular Hotspot and Nordic Innovation. This year’s Summit had ReGeneration 2030 and project CATALY(C)ST from DTU Skylab as official partners, with members from both groups joining as youth journalists. They were tasked with attending and hosting discussions, interviewing participants as well as joining panels, and presenting a call for action at the end of the Summit.

This year’s Summit was held as an online event, where speakers and panelists in Copenhagen were joined on the digital platform myOnvent by thousands of participants from all over the world. At the Summit’s core was the central question: How do we prevent the things we produce and consume from ending their life-cycle as waste, and instead integrate them into a circular system where everything is repurposed and reused?

The transition from today’s linearity to circularity is no small feat. The topics of discussions and panels ranged from technical innovations and practical approaches to ocean protection, food and fashion, to new theoretical attitudes to economics and politics. Overseeing the whole event as youth journalists from ReGeneration 2030 was a committed team consisting of Violetta Massala (Chairperson), Justina Jemeljanovaitė (Circulent team member), Sigríður Guðjónsdóttir (Circulent team member), Adelina Laura Burlacu (Circulent team member) and Ugnė Budriūnaitė (Circulent team member, Communications intern). In addition to the youth journalists, Secretary General Ella Turta hosted and took part in several panel discussions – representing the important voices of the youth movement in discussions and advocating for the importance of Regeneration 2030’s mission – to make sustainable production and consumption the new norm.

"We really need to rethink our current economic system and circular economy is an important tool in decoupling economic growth from environmental degradation. A shift to circular economy will help us to reform our consumption and production in a way that does not systematically exploit natural resources. But most importantly, as the key to solving SDG12 is simply consuming less stuff circular economy will help us to rethink ownership and our current lifestyle of overconsumption",– Ella Turta.

Nordic Circular Summit provides an important platform for networking and collaboration between actors across the whole Nordic region. Collaboration is key in making transitions towards a circular economy happen with the necessary urgency. And it is applicable on all scales: we had presentations on new matchmaking tools developed to connect sustainability projects with relevant technical innovations (Tool) and students who are educated to tackle problems that arise (Miljöbron), as well as ambitious suggestions of a shared economic strategy between all of the Nordic governments. To put it frankly: we can’t keep trying to invent the wheel all over again, but have to instead listen and learn from one another!

As a pre-session the day before the main event, ReGeneration 2030 hosted a youth reception together with representatives from the CATALY(C)ST project at DTU Skylab. Our Secretary General Ella Turta, together with Linda Weiss (Project Manager at CATALY(C)ST), expressed the importance of youth involvement in the path toward a circular economy – of building common ground between senior and youth changemakers. As our team member Ugnė puts it:

"When we talk about the shift towards a circular economy, we always highlight collaboration between different professions, disciplines and regions. Collaboration between generations is extremely important as well, and youth has already proved that we understand the urgency to transform to a circular economy, we are willing to advocate for it, raise questions and help to find the answers. We are ready to step up and offer our help to work in partnership with decision-makers and businesses",– Ugnė Budriūnaitė.

Changing our mindsets and building a new discourse around the economy is a necessary place to start. But do we go from discussion to action? From talking to actually adapting a new way of life? This question was highlighted multiple times by our youth journalist throughout the summit, and thoroughly discussed in Friday’s session on Youth and Future Leadership. Violetta Massala and Sigríður Guðjónsdóttir from ReGeneration 2030 were joined in a panel debate by other young professionals: Jia Johannes Chen (Jia Johannes Chen Studio), Emma Johnson (the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics - Lund University) and Sraboni Barua (Product Sustainability Specialist – Danfoss). The panel expressed the need for practical examples of actions towards circularity, and of recognizing barriers against change and actively breaking them down – which includes having empathy with those who don’t want to change and building bridges to reach them. Here’s Ella’s take on this:

"There are so many inspiring individuals, organisations and businesses working to accelerate the shift towards a sustainable and circular future. However, we need to scale up, have a robust structure for collaboration and put all the big and powerful words into action. For this, we need to get our politicians on board to put in place the incentives that are needed to support the shift",– Ella Turta.

Closing the Summit with a call to action, the youth presented their takeaways and again emphasized the importance of collaboration between actors and generations, rethinking our values and urgent political action. Ugnė sums it up:

"The shift to a circular economy is a systematic transformation, which will include a change in almost every single aspect of humanity’s current behavior. For that to happen successfully, we need to work together, share knowledge, don’t leave anyone behind. Now our task is to construct a plan how we will do this and start moving forward",– Ugnė Budriūnaitė.

All sessions were recorded and are available online.

We are a proud partner of the Nordic Circular summit and look forward to further collaboration in the future. The call for action from youth from regen and cat will be published soon so stay tuned.

Author: Matilda Agdler

Photo credit: Andreas Raun Photography


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