Jahir Mojica
Founder And Ceo Of Suema
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Insight

A Circular Economy For Re‑Thinking Waste Management

Thu, 01/11/2018 - 10:42

The ideal model today for waste management combines the four Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and recover. But Jahir Mojica, Founder and CEO of SUEMA, proposes adding a fifth: rethink. “It is no longer enough to think about how to manage waste; companies must rethink their business models to deliver value without compromising on waste disposal,” he says.
Change does not have to start with the acquisition of revolutionary equipment or a significant investment. Mojica explains that it can be achieved through simple actions like substituting a boiler or a processor. “Up to 100 percent of the waste produced can be avoided through a small change in the way the company operates.”
SUEMA specializes in two links of the waste management value chain: the transformation of residues and harnessing them in the form of energy. “We design and innovate waste processes by applying cutting-edge global technologies but also by developing new systems to improve and redesign waste treatment,” Mojica says.
For example, SUEMA has established a biodigester in the Milpa Alta municipality in Mexico City. This plant is the only one of its kind in the country and the most innovative in Latin America. It is capable of generating 175kWh/d, enough electrical energy to light the Nopal Collection Center during the day. “It transforms waste, whose treatment represented an expense for companies, into an input,” Mojica says.
SUEMA is also working with the sugar industry to reduce the waste produced by sugar mills and turn it into a biofuel that can be used in other production processes. In this case, incineration is the most common technology applied but Mojica believes the trend is moving toward gasification. “Thermochemical treatment technologies are the most effective solutions,” he says. “Our goal is to bring these to the Mexican sugar industry.”
Based on the company’s experience, Mojica emphasizes the importance of a circular economy that promotes greater value throughout the whole supply chain of any product. “When rethinking business models around industrial processes, I am convinced that the central focus should look for ways to deliver value through a more efficient use of resources and without harming the environment,” he explains.
In a circular economy, collaboration instead of competition is the flagship concept. “We need to link industries in an enhanced value chain. This is the ultimate paradigm shift for improving the way we do business in Mexico,” Mojica says. “As waste reduction is a cross-sectoral issue, one industry cannot fight it alone. We need collaborative action from the government, companies and consumers.”
Mojica adds that some industries believe they have exerted all their options and have no room for further improvement in their waste management processes. But a multisectoral perspective proves them wrong, as it is indeed possible to deliver more value with fewer disposals by interconnecting production chains. “A multisectoral perspective shows that when two value chains are joined, the inefficiencies of one become the necessities of another.”
Another crucial paradigm refers to modern consumerism and the need to own things. Household appliances are a great example, Mojica says. “We all want to have our own house, car, fridge and washing machine,” he says. But regardless of how environmentally-conscious a person is, having the capabilities to recycle a full refrigerator at home is unlikely. So, these materials end up thrown in a river, dumpsite or elsewhere.
Understanding this weakness at the end of the value chain, Mojica explains that there should be more of a focus on manufacturers owning their products as they have all the infrastructure to provide maintenance and reincorporate the disposed pieces into their production chain. “If we change our paradigms and place importance on the use of things rather than their ownership, we could radically change the industry and its way of creating value.”