Metal Tech Alley leader Pete Stamper, CEO of KC Recycling, participated in ICE 2021.

Metal Tech Alley leader Pete Stamper, CEO of KC Recycling, participated in ICE 2021.

West Kootenay tech innovator hosts circular economy conference

Metal Tech Alley welcomed leaders from across the globe to virtually rethink the linear economy

Trail’s Metal Tech Alley welcomed over 230 users to their virtual platform for the inaugural Industrial Circular Economy (ICE 2020) Conference.

Leaders across the globe recently gathered virtually to rethink the linear economy and discover ways to align economic activity with environmental stewardship.

Metal Tech Alley logged over 1,160 booth visits from June 16-18. Participants from around the world learned from 20 exhibitors leading a regional movement.

The resounding success of the online event has plans for ICE 2023 already in motion.

“The circular economic model has come to the forefront as a solution and an opportunity to rethink, optimize and regenerate,” explains Jacomien van Tonder, ICE 2021 moderator. “The Lower Columbia region is leading this push; we celebrate the industrial circular economy happening right here through our Metal Tech Alley brand; through this community, we’ve attracted like-minded innovators.”

A circular economy is a closed-loop system where resource inputs are repurposed into a new product instead of being discarded at the end-of-life.

ICE 2021 highlighted resourceful businesses salvaging waste and turning it into valuable resources. Discussion topics included reducing the environmental impact of heavy industry through bio-based resource use and how technology is transforming the space.

Underpinned by the shortcomings of the current linear economy, in which materials are extracted to make something and later disposed of at the end-of-life, keynote speakers shed light on the importance of changing the way we do business.

“Every year, more than 100 billion tonnes of raw materials globally are transformed into new products; only about 8.6 per cent of the planet’s materials and resources that we use for these products are cycled back into the economy at the end of their life,” said Circular Economy Leadership Canada’s Paul Shorthouse. “This linear economy puts an enormous amount of pressure on our planet and our natural ecosystem … if we continue with this business-as-usual, we’ll be omitting 65 tonnes of greenhouse gas globally by 2030, when we really need to be heading toward net-zero very quickly.”

The conference was vital for industrial manufacturers looking to shrink their environmental footprint, create value throughout the product life cycle, and most of all remain competitive. It featured workshops, networking opportunities, panel discussions, and speakers including James Woodcock – International Synergies, Birmingham, England; Frances Edmonds – HP Canada; Jillian Lennartz – Teck Resources; and Rosemary Cooper – BCIT.

Initially intended as an in-person or hybrid event and postponed due to COVID-19, the pivot to an entirely online format meant the conference more easily achieved a further reach.

Interactive displays on the virtual platform featured tourism imagery and videos of the Lower Columbia region, giving attendees a taste of the area’s commercial and recreational opportunities.

In lieu of on-site industry tours, participants took virtual tours, which were shared along with two side events: a circular economy pitch competition and a look at the strategic role data plays in advancing a more circular economy in the automotive sector.

Building connections in this community of innovators accelerates exciting prospects, according to van Tonder.

“I think the future is traceability,” she says. “In 10 years there will be products on store shelves with scannable QR codes; you’ll be able to see exactly where those products came from, down to where their materials were extracted from the earth, the greenhouse gas emissions generated by travelling to the manufacturing plant, and the type of electricity and energy used to process them. You’ll also be able to see how they got to the store and, once you’re done with the products, how they’ll be recycled and put back into the system instead of ending up in a landfill.”

Metal Tech Alley promotes the region as open to new business and ripe with opportunities, specifically in the industrial, technology, and metallurgy sectors.

As its parent organization, the Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation works with other local economic development agencies to create a positive and supported business environment in the region.

“ICE 2021 was our most significant event and undertaking to date; we’ve broadened our horizons to national and federal recognition,” adds van Tonder. “This event was a side event for the World Circular Economy Forum, which is taking place in Toronto this fall. We’re excited to show the world the revolutionary work that’s going on here in the Lower Columbia.”

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