NUE President and U. S. Steel Košice Vice President Miroslav Kiraľvarga evaluates the Conference Results on Circulation Economics
On Tuesday, 13 September 2016, a conference was held in Košice with the main topic: Sustainable industry in the context of the circulation economy. The event was organized by the National Union of Employers (NUE) in cooperation with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). We asked Mr. Miroslav Kiraľvarga, Vice President of U. S. Steel Košice and President of NUE, to summarise the main outcomes of the conference.
If we want to exaggerate, we would say that Košice became for two days a chair-city for the associations of employers from all over Europe. We hosted not only Slovak representatives of industry, but European ones generally. Some of them visited our plant on Monday. I am glad to welcome to Košice Mr. Marcus Beyrer, CEO of the BusinessEurope Association, which covers the employer associations of Europe. As NUE unites organizations from different branches of industry in Slovakia, in the same way BusinessEurope represents hundreds of companies from the whole of Europe; and it is great that they all agreed on the necessity of development of the circulation economy.
• The concept of circulation economy is not a new one, for recycling is something what has been functioning here for decades.
It is true that we have been recycling for decades, and the founders of the steelworks in Košice would probably say that this idea is as old as the metallurgical process itself. However, this must cover the whole system and the products must be seen from the point of view of their life-cycles.
This principle must cover the whole life-cycle of the product, from production to usage and finally disposal at the end of its life time. Moreover, the processes within the entire supplier chain have impacts on the environment, not just during the production process. Extraction of raw materials as well, their transport and energy generation have to be taken into account. Assessment of direct and indirect impacts should prevent the shift of the environmental burden from one phase of the product life-cycle to another one, as seen very often nowadays.
• If you speak about product assessment in relation to its life-cycle, how would you relate this to steel?
The public, often also the professional public, sometimes forget that steel is not a final product in this sense; only its shape and usage change, it does not lose its quality, and it saves raw materials. If every company accepts the concept of the circulation economy, this will mean saving the environment, and a renaissance of steel product usage.
• Why has this not been applied before, or what were the constraints?
Our company needed some time to create environmental awareness, and I repeat once again that this does not concern recycling alone. The shift to this model requires changes in values, from product design to new business and market models. Changes in technology will be needed, but also in company organization, and its functioning, funding methods, policies and strategies must be subject to changes. I will give an example close to our business: if we think in line with the concept of the circulation economy, each ton of slag should be used in concrete, roads and highway construction.
• You speak enthusiastically, so what is your personal motivation and why you are concerned with the circulation economy?
This industrial system brings huge potential for innovations, creation of jobs and economic growth, together with saving of raw materials and improvements of the environment. Motivation for me also means my children, who will have their own children in turn. If we look at the issue from the perspective of several generations, it is our obligation to leave an environment which will be friendly for our successors. When I come back to the facts related to our industry, nowadays each ton of recycled steel represents a saving of more than one and half tons of CO2 emissions, over two tons of raw material, and 70% less energy is used than when producing from primary sources. I am convinced that the circulation economy makes sense.