19. 6. 2017

The University of Chemical Technology in Prague became a member of the ČAObH

The University of Chemical Technology in Prague is a new member of the ČAObH. We talked to the Dean of the Faculty of Environmental Technology, Vladimír Koci, about the details of the relationship of the University of Chemical Technology to the circular economy.

What led VŠCHT to join the Czech Association of Circular Economy?

VŠCHT Prague and especially the Faculty of Environmental Technology have been working on the circular economy for several decades, only it was not called circular economy until now. At our faculty we have long been working on topics such as efficient waste utilization, wastewater treatment, phosphorus recycling, development (but also criticism) of biofuels, LCA, decontamination technologies, plastics recycling, reducing the environmental impact of technologies, waste management and many others. These are all topics that are related to the circular economy, and all of these topics are not only taught to our students, but also addressed in dozens of grant projects or contracts for industrial partners. Two years ago, we started teaching the subject of Circular Economy, and this year we are also opening a new lifelong learning course called Circular Economy, which is intended for the broadest professional public.The issue of the circular economy is therefore very close to our hearts, and we did not hesitate to accept the invitation of our long-term partners Veolia and SUEZ to become members of the Czech Association of Circular Economy. By our membership in the CABH we show that we are interested in this topic and that we welcome cooperation with other organisations that are also close to this topic.

How do you see the circular economy in practice now in 2017?

I'm probably not the right person to say anything about this issue, but as far as I can, I don't see much of a circular economy in our economy yet. There is a lot of talk about the circular economy. It is the new incantation. A lot of the circular economy stuff actually worked back in the mammoth hunters' time. Unfortunately, I think we've forgotten that a little bit. Our current economic system is not set up for it, and even our managerial thinking is just linear. Unfortunately, economically and politically, it can often be characterised by the words: From me to me. And this needs to change. The circular economy is long-term. Sustainable. The very word 'sustainability' has become slightly profane, and so the better and more apt term 'circular economy' is used. This term captures its meaning much better. The fact that it is not yet explicitly implemented in practice does not mean that it is not a daily reality. It is perfectly normal to use waste. It is economical. Glass, for example, can be converted into insulation, and somehow it is. But I don't think that the state should support it in any major way. For example, Uber, the sharing economy, valuing ecosystem services. That is also a form of exploitation - sharing. But that is being suppressed. The state has to create the conditions. Push for products to be easier to repair or to have a longer life. Use tools for support. I'm not an economist, but if garages had, say, lower VAT, it would certainly have an effect. The circular economy is a challenge for economists and politicians. The managerial view needs to be curbed a little, although it still has to make economic sense. The technologists will then come up with a solution. I think the problem is that we have turned a tool into a purpose. I'm talking about money. Money should be a tool, not an end, and the economy that handles money should be given a brief: create the conditions for the circular economy to pay off. So that we can then save raw materials and save the environment.

How do you imagine the Association's activities?

At present, the CABH focuses mainly on the issue of waste, i.e. the sources or use of secondary raw materials. This is logical. It is a starting point from which the circular economy could take off. We are also trying to promote the development of legislation to support the circular economy. Over time, we will also be looking at other topics. Production, design, economic aspects and so on. We have a lot of work ahead of us.