Transcript: Courses and Resources to Teach Sustainable Materials Management and Circular Economy
SEE THE SHOW NOTES AND LISTEN AT: Courses and Resources to Teach Sustainable Materials Management and Circular Economy
Katie Whalen [00:00:00] Getting in the Loop Podcast episode six: Courses and Resources to Teach Sustainable Materials Management and Circular economy with Alessandra Hool.
[00:00:14] Hi, I'm Katie Whalen and join me each week as I talk with experts around the globe about Circular economy. You'll find out what's being done to make it a reality and if it can really solve the problems it promises, it's time for Getting in the Loop.
[00:00:33] Hi there. This is Katie Whalen. And I'm thrilled to welcome you to another episode of the Getting in the Loop podcast. A big shout out to our continued listeners. And welcome to anyone new who's just finding the podcast. I'm very excited to have you here. Before we get started with today's episode, I wanted to tell you about something awesome that we have. So if you're giving presentations related to Circular economy or if you just want to learn a little bit more about Circular economy basics, head over to slidedeck.Gettinginthelooppodcast.com to grab a free presentation that I've created based off of presentations that I've given over the course of the last couple of years. And what it is is you can use it as a starting point for your own presentation. So it's PowerPoint presentation. You can add or adapt your own slides into it, or you can just go through the presentation and learn a little bit more about the basics behind Circular economy. So it's 20 slides. It starts off with why we need a circular economy. What is the concept and how can we implement this in practice? And then at the end it finishes with some links to different reports and other resources so you can learn a little bit more on your own. Okay. So now onto today's podcast. Today we have a new episode for you and we're talking with Alessandra Hool, who is the CEO of the ESM Foundation. The ESM Foundation has existed since 1951 and is dedicated to support research and development activities in the field of rare and critical elements. And today, Alessa and I are going to talk about the ongoing activities that she's leading related to education on critical materials. So we touch on many aspects related to circular economy and critical materials, including the education projects, subscript math, which is producing educational materials related to sustainable management of critical materials. And we also talk a little bit about how she's been using the in the Loop game in the last year or so.
[00:02:34] You can find out more about the topics that we discuss in today's episode by heading over and grabbing the show notes at GettingintheLooppodcast.com and then clicking on the latest episode, which of course, is going to be the one with the Alessa's picture on it. Okay, enough for me. Let's get to the show.
[00:02:51] Thank you so much. Alessandra Hool for joining us today on the podcast.
[00:02:56] You're working a lot regarding critical materials and circular economy. And I was hoping you could tell us about the subscript Matt project that you're involved with.
Alessa Hool [00:03:06] Hi, Katie, so first thing thanks for inviting me to join this podcast today. I am very honored. So basically SUSCRIMAT that's the the short for it's an acronym for sustainable management of critical raw materials. And it's an education project funded by EIT Raw Materials, which is a huge European consortium on all kinds of questions concerning Europe with regard to raw materials in general. Also with a certain focus and critical raw materials and also on Europe's aim towards circular economy. So SUSCRIMAAT is an education project that I with many partners such as you, Delft, Uni, Leiden, also companies like, for example, Out to Tech from Finland and Grant Design from the UK and even a few more submitted at EIT Raw Materials in 206 I think, and it's running since 2017. What we are doing is educating people in critical raw materials and their sustainable management and it's actually targeting a very broad audience. So it's for students, but it's also for professionals working in industry and some information should also be accessible to a to a wider audience. And what we try is to to to develop different modules that are of interest for different audiences and which also come into different forms. So we offer schools and I think two of them you have attended yourself, which was a pleasure. But we are also offering videos. So we're in the course of developing videos and materials that trainers and teachers can use to use these modules themselves. Right. Well, you made me want to know a little bit about the content or maybe. Hopefully the audience wants to. So it's about it's, as I said, sustainable management of critical raw materials. What does that mean? We're teaching people generally the concept of critical raw materials. That means usually not mass metals, but other kinds of metals that are important for our future, that are important, for example, for all kinds of information technology, for clean energy, for sustainable mobility and so on. And what what we talk about is then not only the concept, but also how can we manage as a society to use these materials more sustainable? How can we ensure their supply and how can we implement different different mechanisms to to ensure that we all have them still in the future and that we don't waste?
Katie Whalen [00:06:00] Right. And you're collaborating with industry partners to create educational materials for this, if I'm hearing you correctly.
Alessa Hool [00:06:09] Yes, exactly. There are industry partners involved in our project consortium first and then we also trying to target symbols or of course, materials to industry. For example, we had an auction school for professionals last year that was actually really targeted to a professional audience. And they they do not only learn about the serious critical raw materials, but also about business models. And we, for example, presents start up ideas on people who had had a good idea and implemented it regarding sustainable management and improved circularity of critical raw materials.
Katie Whalen [00:06:50] And do you see a lot of interest in this from industry or from academics or from educators?
Alessa Hool [00:07:01] I think it also in general, if you use the positive message, the the the interest is is very high. I think especially from students and MPH, these students, young academics that from all kinds of fields, from material science, from geology, from industrial ecology and so on. So we are getting lots of responses. We have a high attendance. Ours cool from industry. It varies. It depends a lot. So we there's there's more a mediocre response at the moment.
[00:07:43] I think they're interested, but often they have their own consulting and so on to do this, to implement these concepts in their companies and also especially with it with this cool concept, it's hard for them to send representatives for one week to such as cool to to for further education. So that's, of course, connected to a lot of personal costs. So that that's also why we try now also to focus more on video and online contents so that we also get the chance to people who are very busy in their daily lives to learn something about the content.
Katie Whalen [00:08:22] Yeah, no, I think that's that's a really, really great initiative and a really great way to share the message and really have people learn more about this topic. And we see out with see this trend towards online learning. So I'm really excited. When do you think these videos, are they already online or when will they be coming online?
Alessa Hool [00:08:44] We have a few videos already online on the separate homepage. I think a seven. But we are working on making this even more comprehensive.
[00:08:52] So covering more topics, covering all modules. And we're actually also planning to make a complete move of all of the materials from 2020.
Katie Whalen [00:09:02] Wow. Wow. That's really that's a very big undertaking ,so-
Alessa Hool [00:09:07] Yes, I'm afraid so.
Katie Whalen [00:09:10] But I look forward to that. I see. I as you as you mentioned, I have gone to some of these some of these.
[00:09:18] Now I'm drawing a blank. But some of these these short, close legal rules, the courses. And could you share some of the takeaways that you've that you've had from the project? So, so far.
Alessa Hool [00:09:35] Yes, I think that many takeaways. The good thing about the schools is that it usually provides the opportunity for the participants to learn something. But it also provides the opportunity for the consortium to learn from the participants and their input and also for the consortium, which is very wide.
[00:09:55] Then they come from different backgrounds to to to exchange which with each other and the students. So maybe I could say that for me to take away the main takeaway message is that this topic of circularity and critical raw materials is really a complex one. It's very global. It's very it's not easy to understand all the challenges or relate to them all the interconnections. But what we also learn from the school, there are also many opportunities. And that's, I think, also a nice take women's message. And we also see from that from the participants, because frequently they have great ideas or they're already working in some doing some own initiatives for this or altered school, which I mentioned for professionals. We invited specific start ups or young companies that implemented some circular test ideas in their own businesses or in other businesses. So I think that's that's a good takeaway message. And we also learned that that there is a strong demand for that. So people don't want only to her hear about the many problems and the negative sides. They also want the inspiration to see what actually can be done and that there are nice examples for me. Maybe the key takeaway message.
[00:11:20] But we also want to distribute more so I can give you an example off of one initiative which impressed me a lot. And I also think the participants liked it a lot. It's called sustainable.
[00:11:33] It's a it's a young company who works on enhancing the transparency you see of supply chains of companies. So and what they do is actually I think the idea is that overly complicated. What they do is they implement a blended system where you can automatically exploit your suppliers and ask them to two, to give information on their suppliers so you can go through all tiers, which makes the whole supply chain more transparent. And I think one of the key messages we also bought from the school that it's frequently the problem with critical raw materials. And Ashley also is a set up and Circular economy is to have the actual information on on the different materials and on the products. And this is the very foundation so that you can implement strategies to manage them more sustainably.
[00:12:30] That was that was one of the key takeaways for me as well at the Autumn School. I remember one of the speakers was talking about the fact that he was working with companies and he was turning to them and they were looking for some sort of component for their product and they had no idea who their supply to their supply chain actually was. So I definitely hear you with that in terms of the supply chain transparency.
[00:12:54] Yes, that's true. And I mean, it's just that it's a very crucial point when you look at critical raw materials. And this is also some some something we try to emphasize emphasize a bit in the very beginning when you talk about criticality. First, you need the you need the precise data. And then then it's where the all the intervention options can come into place.
Katie Whalen [00:13:21] Exactly. So unless we had we had Dave on the show talking about critical materials and circular economy a couple of episodes ago. And I'm curious what is sort of you're an expert also in this topic. So what do you think? What are we talking about in this area and what would you like to see more of being discussed in this area?
Alessa Hool [00:13:46] I think one of the issues that gets really clear in our schools, I think it's also really clear if you if you're kind of going a little bit deeper in the topic. We're talking about critical material, sometimes scarce materials. But the problem is actually not the geological scarcity. So we knowing this these this buzz words like the words of peak oil in the 70's and so on.
[00:14:12] But although the materials are limited, that geological scarcity is not the issue. So we can probably invent new methods to extract more. But the real problem is all the issues that come with these extraction and the whole supply chain. So. And. Don't want to. This is not to say this is not important because we have enough, don't have enough. In the broadest sense, but it's not the point. We were run out in 10 or 12 years. The problem is, if we continue to use these materials like we do now, what will our future be like? And this is a very important topic, I think. And it's also very important to keep in mind that this these are not just luxury materials. Of course, it's nice to have mobile phones and so on. But it's they are the very basis of a modern and clean society with energy and health care and a good standard of living for the whole world.
Katie Whalen [00:15:18] Yeah. I think one of the common misconceptions, as you rightly point out, is that people think that it's all we're going to they're not going to be physically available in terms of in the earth, but that's not exactly the entire perspective. And so we retouch a little bit on the previous events that you hosted, the first one for students and then the second one for professionals. And I believe that there is going to be a third school this coming year. Could you tell us about that one?
Alessa Hool [00:15:50] Yes, of course. So we have three big schools which are over over a few days, as you as you said, the first was. That doesn't mean nobody else can join, but we're targeting it specifically to to a certain target audience. And first was students. The second was professionals. And the third, which will take place in Cambridge in July from July 10 to 12, will be targets, two educators. So mostly educators in the academy. And that means that we not only show our different modules and teach them on the contents, but we also try to show how you can set up examples, how you can discuss this with your students. What a good discussion. Discussion points and also how to bring in your own cases and look and work at them for this, by the way. We even have on that. I don't know us. So this is that very soon in April, we'll have a short course on electric mobility also in Cambridge for educators. These are short courses. We sometimes do. We also did one last year on Cobalt, where we just show a few examples and some interactive exercises so that people see what they would gain in a complete course.
Katie Whalen [00:17:13] That's great. I think it's. It's really nice that you have, especially with this educators that you're going to be discussing in terms of what the educators can take away and even apply in their own in their own course courses and lectures after they attend this session.
Alessa Hool [00:17:31] Yeah. And it's I mean, for for us, it's really important that this topic not only stays in a very specified field of people who are actually dealing with materials, criticality or are watching in a very specific industrial quality department working with clarity. But that this that this topic gets some focus. Also it in many other scientific fields, which we think have to be made aware of the challenges and an opportunist chase in order to really create change in that regard.
Katie Whalen [00:18:08] where can where can our listeners go to find out more about these upcoming events and even register if they want to participate?
Alessa Hool [00:18:16] Yeah, that would be actually on our subscription home page, which is www.suscritmat.eu.
Katie Whalen [00:18:26] And I also know that you've been using in the loop with some of these different events. Could you share a little bit about the way that you've been using in the loop?
Alessa Hool [00:18:39] Yes, I'd like to. So I'm also happy, Katie, as you know, in April, you'll also join us in Cambridge and you'll do that with the participants of the short course so that people. It's a really nice introduction to the topic for people because it's very tangible and it gets its first concept. So with our foundation. Yes. Well, I'm working for. We are actually using in the loop for for high school students. And we're it's in the framework of the so-called Swiss tax base. These are events for students where they can get insights into various various technical fields, which might be of interest for them for decisions on their future, for their private lives, but also maybe for the for the view that at some point they have to choose their profession or education. And so that it's very interesting that different people come from different technical backgrounds. And we offer a module on critical, critical raw materials and circular economy. And we're doing this with a look. So what we basically do, I think, is the introduction of maybe 20 minutes on the topics. Some already know lot, actually, and I'm always surprised. And then we play the game. Yeah. And then we play the game so that they see all the concept. We have interviews like that and they they understand ours and mining. I just explained that there is this substitution. All the geopolitical events we have touched in these 20 minutes come then and they can have a very then they see the actual problems from the from the view of as it is in the game, a product producer.
Katie Whalen [00:20:24] Yeah. And what is their reaction and their response?
Alessa Hool [00:20:28] Oh, it's it's very nice actually. It's it's it's some of my favorite days of the year when we do that. They usually like it a lot. So sometimes I don't know if they'd just like to play the game. But that's easily possible. But many of them are also very interested in the topic. And it's nice to see how the young people today are aware of these issues. They they ask a lot. They're usually not completely aware, which is no wonder, because it's really complex of the geopolitical influences that with regard to material supply. So this whole world by Politico took political topics are, of course, very abstract if you're not used to them. So this is usually, I think, really a takeaway message for them. And I think also the different strategies, they're probably not too familiar. They have heard of recycling and so on. But seeing this all in a in a broader way and see are there are so many different ways actually you can actually tackle a resource challenge. I think this is fascinating for them. And the nicest thing, by the way, I just wanted to tell you, sometimes you don't get finished because the 10 percent we just have one and a half hour. And in many cases, they actually want to stay and finish the game because they like so much. So that's very nice.
Katie Whalen [00:22:00] That's great. Yeah. I sometimes it can get a little bit. But once you start then you want to view.
Alessa Hool [00:22:05] Exactly. Exactly. Somebody wants to win. So sometimes I try to ask them someone who has won now the one with my most money or the one with the most points and so on. And that's also. It's not always easy because they always think if it's the points, then the one with the most points has one. But I sometimes tell them it's not that easy.
Katie Whalen [00:22:27] Yeah, of course. Yeah. And it lends to have broader discussions about if you had played longer, what exactly are things like exactly. Yeah. Yeah. That's. Yeah. But so they're high school students.
Alessa Hool [00:22:41] Exactly. They're between we're talking to you about the older ones because English is usually not their first language so that they should have a basic understanding of English. So it's between 16 and 18.
Katie Whalen [00:22:53] Mm hmm. And have they heard of some of these material as well beforehand? Most I don't think so.
Alessa Hool [00:23:00] What I always bring you Mike Sampson's tungsten, because most of them know it's something very special. It's used and it was used in light bulbs. They usually still know that. The rest I see. Of course, we have gold and so on. But the most the very special ones that are. And so on. No. No.
Katie Whalen [00:23:20] Yeah, well, I'm glad that you're enjoying the time that you're enjoying in the loop and that the students appear to be enjoying it.
Alessa Hool [00:23:31] Yeah, me too. So we'll continue with this undertaking.
Katie Whalen [00:23:35] Yeah. Yeah. We're kind of winding down a little bit. And I think this is a perfect segue in terms of we've just talked about in the loop and how you use it. So one of the last questions I asked all of the guests on the show are what event card would you create for In the Loop? Which for those of you who are listening that haven't played in the loop yet at these event cards, they change the market demand. The prices for materials. They basically impact the different players in the game who are trying to produce products by obtaining materials to make their products. So unless you've played the game. What event card would you. Would you like included in the next version of it?
Alessa Hool [00:24:24] I don't think I have a very, very concrete card where I could tell you the outputs and what's then actually happening and how the dice numbers will change. What I would would actually like to see and also address more with the students, although this will probably a very, very time you reach is climate change. I think the interesting thing on the environmental climate change is that this is an event which is actually already in place, but we're not really feeling it in our day to day life. So I would actually like to talk with the students and other people about how do you think will climate change in the future affect our lives and also the global economy and also our use and the availability of raw materials and the demand for them? So it would be something that we're probably more like a salt starter cards unless something very concrete. Except for you. Would you like to, you know, make a very concrete assumption about it?
Katie Whalen [00:25:29] Yeah, exactly. I think we could work with that. No, and I do think you've you've brought up a great point in terms of thinking about the impact that climate change will have and is already having, you know, in in the world today. So I look forward to including that in thinking it for further through with you and including it in the in the next. The next version of In the Loop. Great. So thank you so much for coming on the show. It's been great to learn about your expertise and also the subscript map project and hear about your experience with In the Loop.
[00:26:06] Before we go, where can listeners find out more about you and get in touch?
[00:26:14] Our foundation's home page is ESM Foundation, in one word, dot org. Now you can see what else we're doing. There's also- if I can also advertising other projects. It's called IRTC.Info. That's an international round table on materials criticality and then highly recommend it for everybody who is interested in materials criticality. My personal email is my name is email@example.com. School and I'm of course happily available for any questions.
[00:26:54] Thank you so much, Alessa. Thank you.
[00:27:00] Thank you for listening. I hope you enjoyed this episode. For our show Notes and Links go to our website at getting in the live podcast dot com. And while you're there, subscribe to our mailing list to have new episodes delivered to your inbox every Monday. See you next week.
About the Show
Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.