Innovation for transition to a circular economy : a transdisciplinary case study at Distell

Woolls-King, Monique (2017-03)

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY : The negative effects of excessive global resource use see the urge for decoupled methods of consumption. The circular economy has been acknowledged as a tool to mitigate continued resourced exploitation, and could provide a method for countries to transition towards sustainability. This thesis investigates whether the application of the circular economy may facilitate broader systemic change that provides economic, environmental and social benefits in the context of South Africa. More locally, this thesis responds to the impending closure of the Stellenbosch landfill site, and aims to explore a practical solution to help divert waste from landfill. This thesis aims to fulfil two main objectives. First, it aims to synthesise both transitions theory and the circular economy to provide an innovative tool with which to approach sustainable transitions. Second, it aims to apply this hybrid theory in a transdisciplinary case study at Distell to uncover an innovative closed-loop waste solution. Other objectives aim to contribute to Distell’s ongoing sustainability efforts, respond to Stellenbosch Municipality’s target of reducing organic waste to landfill, contribute to the growing research and evidence of the circular economy and its outcomes, motivate continued theory development and empirical research into the potential synthesis of the two theories and initiate the academic discourse of the circular economy in South Africa. The two main objectives are explored by analysing two sub-questions in two freestanding journal articles. The first article explores the potential synthesis of the fields of the circular economy and transitions theory through a literature review. Although these theories are clearly different, the argument is made that the strengths in the one theory can bolster the weaknesses in the other. The intersection between the two distinct theories has the potential to facilitate a sustainable transition towards a circular economy through innovation. The general conditions under which the circular economy may be replicable is suggested, and further research is recommended to investigate this lens in a case study. The amalgamated theory provides the conceptual tool used to analyse the transdisciplinary case study at Distell in article two. The case study investigates the various waste stream opportunities at Distell that can demonstrate the synthesis in article one to provide a scalable intervention with environmental, social and economic benefits. The filter waste stream was chosen due its high priority given by Distell, and with the conceptual tool it was possible to design a closed loop intervention that has the potential for widespread positive environmental, economic and social effects. Closing the loop on the cellulose filter waste entails using them to grow and sell edible mushrooms, thereafter selling or using the exhausted substrate as compost. The implications could include two new revenue streams, reduced costs, waste diverted from landfill, reduced greenhouse gas emissions associated with landfilling, soil regeneration, increased carbon sequestration ability of soils, strategic positional advantages and semi and low-skilled job creation. Since the majority of the Western Cape wineries use the same filter method, these findings could potentially transform the Western Cape wine industry, and thus our soils. The specific conditions under which this intervention could be replicable is suggested, and further research is recommended to develop a clear strategy for implementing this project, and to continue the theory development of the amalgamation of transitions theory and the circular economy.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING : Die ontwikkeling van ontkoppelde metodes van gebruik is nodig om die negatiewe gevolge van die oormatige gebruik van die aarde se hulpbronne te bekamp. Sirkulere ekonomie word erken as ‘n manier om die volgehoue uitbuiting van hulpbronne te bekamp en ‘n metode te bied vir lande om oor te skakel na volhoubaarheid. Hierdie tesis ondersoek die moontlikheid dat die toepassing van sirkulere ekonomie ‘n breer sistemiese verandering wat ekonomiese, omgewings en maatskaplike voordele binne die Suid-Afrikaanse konteks sal bewerkstellig. Meer plaaslik is hierdie tesis ‘n ondersoek na die dreigende sluiting van Stellenbosch se stortingsterrein met die doel om ‘n praktiese oplossing te vind vir die herwinning van afval. Hierdie tesis het twee hoof doelwitte. Eerstens het dit ten doel om sowel die teorie as die sirkulere ekonomie saam te voeg en sodoende ‘n innoverende instrument te ontwikkel vir die hantering van volhoubare oorgange. Tweedens het dit ten doel om hierdie hibriede teorie in ‘n transdisiplinere gevallestudie by Distell toe te pas en ‘n innoverende geslote lus oplossing vir afval te ontwikkel. Ander doelwitte is om ‘n bydrae te lewer tot Distell se voortgesette volhoubaarheids inisiatiewe, kommentaar te lewer op Stellenbosch Munisipaliteit se teiken vir die vermindering van organise afval gelewer aan stortingsterreine, by te dra tot die groeiende navorsing en bewyse van sirkulere ekonomie en die uitkomste daarvan, om voortgesette ontwikkeling van teorie en empiriese navorsing en ‘n sintese van die twee teoriee te motiveer en om ‘n akademiese gesprek oor sirkulere ekonomie in Suid Afrika te inisieer. Hierdie twee hoofdoelwitte is ondersoek deur twee sub-vrae vervat in twee onfhanklike tyskrif artikels te analiseer. Die eerste artikel ondersoek die potensiele sintese tussen sirkulere ekonomie en oorgangsteorie deur ‘n literatuur oorsig. Alhoewel die twee teoriee duidelik van mekaar verskil kan die argument voorgehou word dat die sterkpunte in die een teorie die swakpunte van die ander teorie kan aanvul. Die raakpunt tussen die twee afsonderlike teoriee het die potensiaal om volhoubare oorgang na sirkulere ekonomie deur innovasie te fasiliteer. Die omstandighede waaronder sirkulere ekonomie herhaalbaar is word voorgestel en ‘n gevallestudie word aanbeveel vir verdere navorsing.. Die saamgestelde teorie bied ‘n konseptuele raamwerk vir die analise van die Transdisiplinere gevallestudie by Distell vervat in die tweede artikel. Die gevallestudie ondersoek die moontlikhede van afvalstroom by Distell wat kan demontreer dat die sintese in artikel een ‘n toepaslike haalbare ingryping met omgewings, maatskaplike en ekonomiese voordele kan bewerkstellig. Die gefiltreerde afvalstroom is gekies vanwee die hoe prioriteit wat Distell daaraan gee en met die konseptuele raamwerk was dit moonlik om ‘n geslote lus ingreep te ontwikkel wat moontlikhede bied vir uitgebreide positiewe omgewings, ekonomiese en maatskaplike effektiwiteit. Die laaste skakel wat die kringloop vir die filtrering van sellulose afval voltooi, word bewerkstellig deur die kweek van eetbare sampioene. Daarna word die uitgeputte substrata ook as kompos verkoop. Die implikasies hiervan, kan twee nuwe inkomste bronne, verlaagte produksiekoste, verminderde afval na vullishope, verlaagde kweekhuisgasse by die vullishope, grond herlewing, verhoogde suurstofsekwestrasie vermoe, strategiese positionele voordeel en werkskepping vir semien laaggeskoode arbeid beteken. Aangesien die meerderheid van wynkelders in die Wes Kaap dieselfde filtreer metode gebruik, het hierdie bevindings die potensiaal om die Wes Kaapse wynindustrie te verander tot voordeel van grondgehalte. Die spesifieke toestande waaronder hierdie ingrepe herhaalbaar sou wees word voorgestel en aanbevelings vir verdere navorsing word gemaak om ‘n duidelike strategie vir die implementering van hierdie projek en voortgesette teoretiese ontwikkeling vir die samestelling van oorgangsteorie en sirkulere teorie.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/101394
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