Driving Towards the Circular Economy: Conference Insights

“Circular economy”, “Green deal”, “Critical raw materials act” – keywords you hear all over the place. But what does it really mean? What does it imply for industries and for us as citizens? How can we accelerate important steps towards necessary transitions? Or what is hindering us?

Well, to get some answers, over the last weeks I was very enthusiastic to participate in several conferences exchanging on the latest technological developments as well as on legal and sometimes even philosophical aspects on how to increase our recycling efforts on a national and European Union level. It was a pleasure to present our contribution as RHI Magnesita and of all our partners within the project ReSoURCE to several hundreds of interested stakeholders.

Starting with the AWT2024 in Vienna, my colleague Alex and I were invited to give a talk in front of over 500 participants. Although this was very exciting, the main highlight of the conference was  that ReSoURCE won the PHÖNIX award 2024. There is no question that it is an additional motivation boost when an independent jury recognizes the added value of the project to a more sustainable industry, and it highlights the excellent collaboration within the team. Apart from the beautiful statue, we also brought a lot of takeaways home – learnings about the newest legislations on the circular economy, obstacles when it comes to recycling mineral waste and even almost philosophical questions. After our talk, we had to answer: “What does the industry need to improve circularity: Carrots or Sticks?”  Still a tough question to answer in my opinion.

After an eventful AWT2024, I had the opportunity to travel to Brussels for the EIT Raw Materials Summit 2024.  Although I had already been to several conferences (mostly scientific or waste management on a national level), being at an EU summit with over 1000 participants and only C-level speakers having a professional moderator for all sessions, actually made me a little nervous. Especially because we had the opportunity to present ReSoURCE within a workshop organized by our project partner Crowdhelix. Attending two days of panel discussions was a not a new experience for me, but there was hardly any interaction with the audience, which is something I am used to at scientific conferences. I also have to admit that I felt more comfortable in the “Innovation Village” exchanging with a lot of start-ups presenting a very broad spectrum of innovative recycling solutions and during the workshop, getting in touch with the audience. Nevertheless, I was very happy to be able to attend this event and get a high-level view on the most relevant topics of our generation. In the end I think everyone agreed that we still have a lot to do and that actions need to be taken fast. Unfortunately answers to the “how” came up a little short for me.

My circular economy trips were rounded up by getting invited to talk at the BKMNA’24 in Berlin and present ReSoURCE to a smaller but more targeted audience. And yes, one can discuss a whole conference day about waste reaching its end-of-waste (meaning it is no longer waste but product), if “waste” is really “waste” or a “by-product”, etc. Making it evident how complex legislation might be and how difficult it can be to reintroduce valuable secondary raw materials into the circle.

After very exciting, fruitful but also exhausting months, I am really proud of being part of the project ReSoURCE and that I had the opportunity to highlight our share towards a more sustainable future on these platforms!

Simone Neuhold - ReSoURCE

Authors’ Portrait

Simone Neuhold

Dr. Simone Neuhold currently works for RHI Magnesita. Before she joined the company she was hired at Pilkington Deutschland AG/NSG Group. Simone studied at the TU Graz Chemistry and Advanced Materials Science, and at the Montanuniveristaet Leoben Waste Management and Waste Processing Technologies. Her research interests are recycling of mineral wastes, materials science and oekodesign.



Simone Neuhold