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Artificial intelligence and the circular economy: understanding the effects, practices and initiatives

The capitalist structure of most corporations is designed to prioritize businesses and industries in a way that stimulates economic growth while generating huge amounts of income. Today, as we trample on major business and industry owners for their innovative ideas and strategies, we often forget that we are doing so at the cost of severe climate damage and degradation.

With this article, we will highlight an innovative collaboration from two different fields: artificial intelligence and the circular economy. However, before we delve into the two topics, let’s first understand the meaning of the two terms and how they can work together to pave the way for a cleaner, brighter, and more sustainable future.

What is artificial intelligence and the circular economy?

Let’s start with the basic definition of artificial intelligence. Simply put, artificial intelligence (AI) is a large and comprehensive branch of science related to the design and construction of intelligent machines. They have the potential to perform tasks that typically require considerable human labor and intelligence. Even though the field of Artificial Intelligence is vast, it can be broadly classified into four types:

  • Theory of Mind

  • Limited memory

  • Responsive machines

  • Self-awareness

The popular perception today is that artificial intelligence (AI) is a newly discovered invention that is still a field of rigorous research and study. However, AI has been actively deployed across various verticals to take advantage of an array of benefits such as no downtime, operational efficiency, multitasking, rapid decision making, and more. Now let’s move on to the definition of a circular economy.

The notion of circular economy was written to tackle climate change by designing markets that extend a range of benefits and incentives to business owners who reuse products instead of throwing them away or scratching them. In a circular economy, all forms of waste like obsolete electronics, scrap metal, used clothing are used more efficiently or skillfully reintroduced into the economy. This actively promotes green and sustainable practices at ground level and provides benefits such as:

  • Zero waste

  • Low carbon emissions

  • Increases the chances of economic growth

  • Reduced use of non-renewable materials and resources

  • Leave room for new business opportunities and strategies

  • Creates demand to take advantage of innovative products and services.

4 Main effects of artificial intelligence on the circular economy

Initially, for someone who has no knowledge of technology or finance, it is difficult to make the link between circular economy and artificial intelligence. But as mentioned above, by operating and optimizing circular economy processes, artificial intelligence is seen as the right tool to promote the idea of adopt green practices at the domestic level. Below we have mentioned many ways in which artificial intelligence can affect the functioning of a circular economy:

  1. Artificial intelligence solves complex problems in a short time

    Artificial intelligence is an umbrella term used for a collection of smart technologies that deal with a variety of systems and models that perform highly intellectual cognitive functions like learning and reasoning. In addition, AI can also find solutions to complex problems using model optimization, prediction, recommendation generation and recognition based on audio, images, videos, text, digital, etc.

  2. Artificial intelligence follows a streamlined process conducive to the circular economy

    When artificial intelligence is integrated into the circular economy, it typically follows a solidified process of collecting data, refining algorithms, developing algorithms, and engineering data to generate results that can quickly be found. solutions to several problems. This means that, unlike human practice and effort, the chances of errors, resource mix-ups, and delays are minimal.

  3. Deploy artificial intelligence to design products and materials for the circular economy

    In a circular economy, it is imperative to build components, products and materials capable of strengthening and improving repair, reuse and refurbishment cycles of technical resources. Additionally, economic circularity requires efficient materials, components, and products that require features like recycled content, scalability, or teardown.
    Therefore, artificial intelligence can enable technicians and designers to fabricate materials by providing detailed and continuous feedback. It will also lead to the introduction of new and innovative assets in the market.

  4. AI ensures optimized infrastructure for material flows and circular products

    It is important to remember that one of the main characteristics of a circular economy is that products and materials are not scraped and disposed of, but are used repeatedly by industries. To do this, it is crucial to have a system where nutrients can be extracted from the biological waste streams; thus, the need for a large-scale infrastructure to carry out the process of collation, separation, execution of treatments and redistribution.
    In recent years, AI has proven to be the ideal choice to enable optimal valuation of products and materials by rearranging materials from mixed flows through advanced visual recognition methods and techniques.

Strengthening circular economy solutions thanks to artificial intelligence

Several industries understand the benefits of investing in artificial intelligence while realizing the ambitions of a circular economy. However, this transition requires an ecosystem and the collective efforts of trusted partners to achieve a common goal that will ultimately benefit all sectors of society.

Now, since strong collaborations are the first condition for achieving a fully functional circular economy, people must have a deep understanding of the difficulties they face in their industrial chains and what they expect from artificial intelligence. Even the smartest machines can’t solve problems unless humans find a way to clearly establish the required outputs and inputs.

Therefore, before implementing several features of AI, such as learning feedback and rapid testing, it is best to have a comprehensive understanding of all the areas that require acceleration so that the overall structure of the AI is adapted to organize effective solutions for a particular system.

Schneider Electric: leading the way with artificial intelligence

At Schneider Electric, we envision a sustainable future without waste. To achieve this goal, we strive to invent innovative home improvement solutions, new products and services that help customers achieve much more while using minimum resources and protecting the planet in the most efficient way possible.

We are a leading organization in digital transformation of automation and power management and are working diligently to advance and upgrade our AI technology. This will further help our clients to collect data on the value chains that are integral to decarbonization and decision making. In addition, we are also deploying a plethora of AI-powered business models that help unlock new levels of sustainability and efficiency across different verticals.