In the future economy, waste will be used to create materials, knowledge will be distributive and shared, jobs and manufacturing processes will be green and communication will keep on having a crucial role. On June 7 in Bologna the First Italian National Forum on the circular economy took place: a debate among representatives of institutions, companies and consortium associations that also had contributions from economists, jurists and communication professionals, about pivotal factors contributing to the development of a new economic model. The event, organized by Edizioni Ambiente, Renewable Matter and Città Metropolitana di Bologna was held within the frame of #Allforthegreen, a week of events preparing the Environmental G7.

“Circularity – Lucio Cavazzoni said – comes from a biologic knowledge and awareness. In nature there is no beginning and no end, just a continuous exchange between the parts.” The chairman of Alce Nero (Black Elk) also quoted an interview to the Sioux chief from which the organic food brand took the name and inspiration. The native Indian chief, forced to live in Indian reserves in a square house, complained about the fact that it could break his flow within the universe, which is totally circular: “Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle… Birds make their nests in circles, because theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun always rises and sets down in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. Man’s life is a circle, from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.”(1)

Special guest of the Forum was Kate Raworth, an influential British economist who explained her vision (see the interview on this issue) of an economy that overcomes the linear model to find an equilibrium in which the needs of world population are met within the planetary boundaries. These needs have been analysed by Luca Mercalli, climatologist and meteorologist, who relied on literature to describe the predominant behaviour about climate change: in The Great Derangement: climate change and the unthinkable, (Amitav Gosh, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2016) the author speaks about the indifference – almost bother – that this issue generates in conversations when it comes to the forefront. Mercalli highlighted that newscasts, reciting a daily mantra, inform us about stock indexes, when they should do it about numbers – that are crucial for our survival – related to environmental limits: how much CO2 did we emit today? What’s the level of oceans acidification? And how about the ozone layer depletion? What’s the rate of biodiversity loss?

In the Forum, four moments of thematic discussion have been planned. The first one, “From waste to matter,” moderated by Silvia Zamboni, displayed the experiences of consortium associations representatives – Ecopneus, Cobat, Conoe – which in addition to carrying out, each one in their sector, an important action of collection of environmentally dangerous waste, collaborate with companies to find possible useful applications.

The legal and regulatory field has often been discussed and blamed for not keeping up with the economy, impeding a circular change in Italy. In addition to a reassessment of the juridical concept of “waste” Paola Ficco, an environmental legal expert, highlighted the need of a regulatory homogeneity within Italian territory, to enable the maximum effectiveness of organizations which include more than one region.

“New jobs: roles and professions” is the title of the next panel, focused on the importance of green jobs: journalist Marco Gisotti remarked their economic relevance. Furthermore, green jobs must be both environmentally and socially sustainable; they must be just about wages and occupational safety, too. During the debate, a lot of importance was given to a skilled training in this field, still lacking in Italian and international universities. This is the situation, excluding some exceptions recalled by academics like the first International Master in circular Bioeconomy, arisen from the collaboration between the universities of Bologna, Milano Bicocca, Federico II in Naples and Università degli Studi of Turin, aimed to the creation of several professional figures for the new jobs.

After this some examples of green projects and shifts have been illustrated, like the food farming centre in Bologna, a sustainable and self-sufficient fruit and vegetable market aiming to become a thematic park focused on food and his circularity. And so it was for CAP Holding, a company managing the water supply in the metropolitan area of Milan aiming to circularity as a constant feature along his whole process, that established several partnerships based on sharing knowledge to exploit waste transforming it into fertilizers or, in the case of sewage sludge, into bio-methane.

Thanks to this evidences, business has been the main character of the panel “Smart development: from vertical economy to network economy,” moderated by Emanuele Bompan. In order to create a system in which both materials and knowledge are exchanged among stakeholders of different productive chains, making a network is crucial for companies.

These are pivotal aspects for shifting to the new model, but a cultural revolution is needed to make them become part of the daily life of every citizen, and this will only be possible after taking action to foster them and make people aware of their importance. The circular economy and sustainability must enter the collective consciousness, becoming “craved” so that industry adjusts to the demand for green products and manufacturing processes. During the panel “Communicating innovation, creating integration,” Regione Emilia Romagna illustrated its commitment in such direction with its network of Ceas centres – Centres for training to sustainability – and the establishment of the First permanent Forum on the circular economy, a tool by which the Region fosters its strategies about it, enabling the different stakeholders to give their contribution to public policies. The launch of the Forum is fulfilled through the participatory procedure Chiudi il cerchio (Close the circle), a digital platform. The moderator of the debate was the journalist Pierluigi Masini.

Institutional figures of the territory (Città Metropolitana di Bologna) and the Minister of Environment, Gianluca Galletti, who highlighted the current importance of the economy-environment couple, also attended the convention. Alessandro Bratti, Chairman of Bicameral Panel for inquiry on illicit activities pertaining to waste cycle and Member of The Environmental Panel of the Parliament, concluded that, although there are excellences in innovation and sustainability within the “made in Italy,” there is still a long way to reach the implementation of circularity at a systemic level: the metamorphosis process from caterpillar to butterfly is still underway.