November 16
View of the large hall at the Circular Valley Forum. More than 1000 guests were present at the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal.
Minister: The Circular Valley Forum is a place of hands-on confidence
The circular economy summit showcased many examples of the progress made in the transition to a circular economy: the first cross-border collaboration between two regions, 14 promising business models from international start-ups and support from the United Nations.
For North Rhine-Westfalian (NRW) Minister President Hendrik Wüst, the Circular Valley Forum began with double treat on Thursday (November 16). In the Historische Stadthalle Wuppertal, he discovered two works by artist Tony Cragg, of whom he is an avowed fan. Framed by the two sculptures, he and his Flemish colleague Jan Jambon then made for a historic moment: the Minister Presidents signed the first cooperation between two regions from two countries in the circular economy. Over the next five years, NRW and Flanders will exchange knowledge, launch pilot projects, train specialists and jointly apply for funding. "We want to show that it can be done," said Wüst. North Rhine-Westphalia and Flanders would become the recycling center of Europe and work together to close material cycles "as far as possible", emphasized Jambon. The agreement between the two neighbors is expressly open to other countries and regions.
At the Circular Valley Forum, the state government of North Rhine-Westphalia was represented by four other cabinet members. Their participation demonstrated that the circular economy is an interdisciplinary issue. Minister of Economic Affairs Mona Neubaur and Minister of the Environment Oliver Krischer, both visited the Forum for the second time. Not only do they both promote circular economy topics with their departments, but it also plays an important role in all other ministries.

Mona Neubaur, patron of Circular Valley, emphasized in her speech during the Forum how urgently action needs to be taken: "We don't have much time left. If things go on like this, we won't be where we want to be in 2040 until 2065." Addressing the entrepreneurs in the room, she said: "Our ecological systems are in danger of collapsing. For you, this means that you will lose your assets if we don't do something." Conversely, the circular economy could become a growth driver for North Rhine-Westphalia.

The positive energy of the Forum also impressed NRW's European Minister Nathanael Liminski and a guest from New York. Liminiski was fascinated by the "hands-on confidence" visible at the Circular Valley Forum. Nanette Braun, Head of Communication Campaigns at the United Nations, explained that such confidence is crucial to motivate people to believe that it is possible to make the transition despite the enormous challenges of our time. People need to feel that " they can be part of the solution".

Support from the Federal Cabinet
Circular Valley is an initiative founded in summer 2021 to promote the circular economy and to turn the extended Rhine-Ruhr region into a global hotspot for it. The Forum is the summit of the circular economy. Decision-makers from politics, business, science and civil society spend a day discussing the transformation's progress, current challenges and new solutions. Topics at this year's forum included renewable energies, cross-company and pan-European cooperation, financing the circular economy and accelerating approval procedures.

The Circular Valleys Forum received support from two members of the German government. Environment Minister Steffi Lemke and Finance Minister Christian Lindner supported the initiatives in video messages. Lindner very much welcomes the fact that representatives from different areas "come together regularly to share experiences and make policy recommendations. We are very happy to take them on board". His cabinet colleague Lemke explained that Circular Valley is an important role model: "You show what opportunities there are in the circular economy."
Start-ups with new ideas and initial milestones
The guests at the Forum were also inspired by the 14 international start-ups currently supported in Circular Valley's accelerator program. The young companies presented their business models at DemoDay. There, they presented recyclable blades for wind turbines, components made from modified bamboo or used glass and an app that saves a lot of fresh water in agriculture. The founders travelled to the Rhine-Ruhr region from the USA, Ecuador, Nigeria, Yemen and Singapore, and other countries.

The importance of Circular Valley for the future was demonstrated by several start-ups from previous accelerator rounds who joined as an audience at DemoDay: Plastic Fischer just retrieved its 1000th ton of plastic waste from rivers in India and Indonesia. The Cologne-based company found its first partner from the established economy after its presentation in Wuppertal two years ago. The Circular Valley start-up Bioweg, which just entered into a partnership with Bayer, reached a similar milestone. The aim is to develop biodegradable seed coatings.
Communication through art
In addition to the sculptures by Tony Cragg, other works of art conveyed the message of the Circular Valley. HA Schult had set up a "value giant" in front of the Historische Stadthalle, a six-ton figure made from electronic waste. Inside the building, photographer Peter Voss showed 60 images of how the poorest of the poor live in and from garbage.
Tony Cragg also inspired the Forum audience as a panelist. Man is the only living being that expands into matter, he said. We must therefore start early to live less materially influenced lives. The Brit pleaded for the topic to be taught in elementary school so that people gain a deep understanding of matter. Then they would also act differently and the path to the circular economy would be easier to follow.
Guest list
Ina Scharrenbach (NRW Minister for Home Affairs, Building and Municipal Affairs), Gunther Adler (Autobahn GmbH des Bundes), Henrik Ahlers (Ernst & Young Germany), Rolf Buch (Vonovia), Marc Ehrhardt (BASF Corporation USA), Prof. Dr. Manfred Fischedick (Wuppertal Institute), Prof. Dr. Walter Leitner (Max Planck Institute), Heike Prinz (Henkel), Prof. Dr. Lambert T. Koch (German University Association), Surendra Patawari (Gemini Corporation Belgium/India) and Patrick Wendeler (BP Europe).
Further information
The next Circular Valley Forum will take place on November 15, 2024.

Source of all photos: Jan Turek / Circular Valley
Media Contacts:

Clara Hennings
Phone: +49 202-256-237-25