from Waste to Resource,
Innovation and Solutions
For centuries, waste has been discarded into unwelcome piles that take up space and emit toxins. As cultures and technologies have developed, waste streams increased creating larger piles and higher financial, social and environmental costs.
The Resource Innovation and Solutions Network – RISN – recognizes that waste is no longer trash, it’s a resource. It’s something we can use. It can create new jobs, industries and technologies. Waste is an opportunity.
The city of Phoenix, under direction from Mayor Greg Stanton, developed “Reimagine Phoenix: Transforming Trash into Resources” to divert 40 percent of Phoenix’s waste away from the landfill by 2020. Understanding that this effort could not be achieved through municipal efforts alone, the city turned to Arizona State University (ASU), the nation’s leader in sustainability education and research, to establish a network focused on creating value and economic development opportunities from solid waste streams.
In January 2014, the Phoenix City Council approved funding for $2 million to initiate the RISN in partnership with the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives at ASU. RISN brings together university, government, business and non-governmental partners to transform the relationship between resources, the environment and the economy in order to create a resource-focused ethical Circular Economy platform that makes urban areas healthier, resilient and more efficient.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, the Circular Economy is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times. Linear economies are based on “take, make, dispose” models that have driven our waste streams to capacity. Circular economies find economic value in the reuse, recycling or repurposing of materials in a potentially endless cycle.
RISN positions the business case for sustainability that drives industry-related initiatives that promote ethical economic development. It is this business case that drives the agenda for decision makers and supports the appropriate definition of the scope of problems or opportunities. It enables them to recognize the conditions under which decisions must be made, implemented and monitored to significantly transform their cities.
RISN helps eliminate significant barriers that municipalities face from realizing the benefits of a circular economy through convening, facilitating and collaborating with multiple stakeholders. Cities acting alone are not able to allocate the necessary resources to develop new technologies and promote market development that will support “Waste as Resource” economic development opportunities. RISN fills this gap by focusing on technology development, market development and the critical data and resource flows necessary to identify solutions. It also provides a bridge for researchers to connect the outputs of their research with the entrepreneurs best positioned to translate those to social and economic outcomes.
A global network of collaborating partners who create a world of circular resource loops that improve human well-being, generate economic value and restore the environment for all generations of all species.
The Resource Innovation and Solutions Network accelerates the global transition to a circular economy through a global network of public, private and NGO partners using collaboration, research, innovation, education and application of technologies to create economic value through sustainable resource management.
- Regional Integrated Resource Management
- Continuous Innovation
- Collaborative Symbiosis
- Social and inter-generational justice
- Economic development
Success is defined as fully embracing and implementing the Hannover Principles and the principles of a circular economy, as defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Decision-making is to favor long-term goals and thinking over short term goals or opportunities. Continuous innovation includes making choices within existing constraints today that do not inhibit or delay better solutions when they become available.
Decision-making is to include thoughtful consideration of all people and species of this, past and future generations, especially when they are not at the table to represent their interests.
Everything is inter-connected. Any changes to or activities of the network are to be evaluated for their anticipated impacts and potential unintended impacts (beneficial, benign and adverse) on the rest of the network and the broader community.
True integrated resource management and innovation expands beyond waste resources to include the quality, availability, responsible use and appropriate valuation of all resources (water, air, energy, etc.).
The network is to promote the principles of the Living Building Challenge and Living Community Challenge for their consistency with circular economic and zero waste, water and energy goals.
Inspiration is key. As a vanguard to promote behavioral transformation globally, network activities are to include opportunities for human inspiration and education, celebrating their roots in re-imaging waste.
A primary goal of the network is to create circular economic value & jobs locally and regionally. Decisions should strengthen the market-based environment and symbiotic relationships, and emphasize regional solutions.
Perfect solutions and an imperfect world often collide. Transparency about those collisions and the results and lessons learned provide enormous educational opportunities to devise better solutions for others and for the future. The network is to promote open communication and transparent knowledge sharing.