JCU academic leads ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy Meeting at Kigali Rwanda
Associate Professor Adrian Kuah served as the Head of Singapore Delegation at the fourth meeting of ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy to support and contribute to sustainable development.
Why do we need a circular economy? The increase in consumerism and (both the production and destruction of) disposable products has led to an upswing in greenhouse gases. This linear industrial model — extracting resources, constructing products, and then disposing of the goods and any by-products once used — contributes to climate change while increasing the possibility of resource scarcity. This existing model needs to change in order for us to become more sustainable and to combat our rising temperatures.
A circular economy is an economic system that uses a systemic approach to maintain a circular flow of resources, by recovering, retaining or adding to their value, while contributing to sustainable development. From a sustainable development perspective, the inflow of virgin resources is kept as low
as possible, and the circular flow of resources is kept as closed as possible to minimize emissions and losses (waste). This reduces waste as well as the use of our resources, thus eliminating the use of toxic chemicals (which impair reuse) and damage to the environment.
Established in 2018, an International Organization for Standardization Technical Committee (ISO/TC) aims to make the global circular economy a reality by steering projects towards a sustainable agreed global standard. This committee — also known as ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy — comprises national experts and representatives from over 65 countries, and will develop requirements, frameworks, guidance, and support tools, with the aim of ensuring implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since 2019, an annual ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy Meeting is held to discuss these standards to promote the circular economy, alongside the actions that the global community needs to take create a sustainable and environmentally-friendly future.
(A get-together amongst the Rwanda Standards Board hosts, ISO/TC 323 core advisory group, convenors, secretariats and national representatives.)
This year, the meeting took place on 25–30 September 2022 in the capital city of Rwanda, where Prime Minister Lee had attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting earlier in the year on 23–25 June 2022. There were some 47 participating countries, 6 ordinary member countries, and nearly 250 international experts present at this meeting. Singapore as a participating country is represented by Dr Adrian Kuah, Head of Singapore Delegation for Singapore Standards Council, and Ms Yimin Deng, Secretariat and Standards Development Partner at Enterprise Singapore. Dr Kuah also serves as Associate Professor of Business at James Cook University in Singapore.
Before the Meeting, the Rwanda Standards Board organised a visit to Enviroserve Rwanda, a company dedicated to electronic and electrical waste recycling, green growth, and the circular economy. Enviroserve Rwanda is pioneering e-waste management in East Africa and, in partnership with the Government of Rwanda, operates the region’s only state-of-the-art e-waste dismantling and recycling facility, which refurbishes a significant number of computer parts and up to 75 per cent of commercial batteries for reuse in the market. During this visit, Dr Kuah also met with ASEAN delegates from Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, alongside Ms Catherine Chevauché, Chair of ISO Technical Committee 323.
(At Enviroserve Rwanda with Catherine Chevauché, Chair of ISO Technical Committee 323 and delegates from Indonesia and Thailand.)
The 2022 ISO/TC 323 Circular Economy Meeting paved the way for experts across various countries to reach a consensus on a set of three core standards (ISO 59004, 59010 and 59020) and two further technical reports pertaining to the principles, measurements, and transition toward the circular economy.
Professor Chris Rudd, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Head of Singapore Campus notes, “We are very happy to support the international development of this important set of standards as a leading University in the tropics, under the leadership of Associate Profesor Kuah who has already published a string of 8 to 9 research articles in this field. Creating the standard, and agreeing on its definition would permit the global community to reach its endeavours in preserving and conserving resource for the future”
“I feel honoured to represent Singapore as Head of Delegation at this ISO meeting after contributing as standards partner for Enterprise Singapore since 2019,” said Dr Kuah. “The fourth meeting is indeed crucial for the alignment of standard development across three core standards amongst the national representatives, as we had functioned almost remotely for three years due to COVID-19. This meeting brought back a face and personality to every expert as we celebrated a step closer towards transition to the circular economy. The draft international standards (DIS) are expected to be released for consultation in 2023.”
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