Imagine 2050...

Thanks to sponsor Veolia for providing the following article, with its vision of circular economy in 2050 and beyond.

One of the biggest challenges industry will face is ensuring a secure supply chain. There will be a scarcity of resources caused by a rapidly rising global population.

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At Veolia, finding innovative solutions to these resourcing issues is in our DNA. We have envisioned a future where industry has been re-engineered and redesigned so products and manufacturing processes can be completed without waste; where our energy needs to power facilities are met onsite from renewable sources, not taken from the grid; and where we stop seeing waste as a cheap commodity and start managing it as the life source it is.

By bringing these three elements together in a network of water, energy and materials, we can save resources and create industries that will be fit for 2050. Come and join us on this journey and see how we can ensure we are manufacturing the future.

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By 2050, we see the cost of energy and water becoming a significant burden for expanding manufacturing. Businesses will need to think smartly about how they generate, use and recover these resources.

Our Hubgrade smart monitoring centres already monitor heat, electricity and gas usage in real time. Central control centres remotely adjust systems to ensure constant optimisation. Customers can also be identified, prioritised and notified when improvements could be paid for by cost efficiencies.

We believe the miniaturisation of waste treatment systems will reduce centralised plants to facilities, processing rubbish onsite. Smaller businesses could see shared facilities installed and managed by Veolia. Combined with rapid advances in extraction from waste, this could help all businesses achieve a 100% recovery rate.

We’re already extracting and selling fertiliser, road salt, paint thinners, glass, fibre, road building materials, plastic polymers for car bumpers, and oils from waste. We’re also looking at how we can recover materials like precious metals on a commercial scale and turn sludge into plastics. This means businesses will be able to trade these products on the open market through our existing Veolia brokerage teams.

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By 2050, we see the pharmaceutical and chemical industries facing increasing regulation around how they use and dispose of resources. Veolia is already working within these industries to design efficiency into products from a concept stage – rather than just treating the generated waste at the end.

We are extracting glucose from organic waste to be used as feedstock for production. This reduces costs by avoiding the need to grow and harvest crops.

In the future, our role may evolve to help keep the country healthy. With recent advances in sensor technology, it’s possible that local health authorities may work with Veolia to monitor municipal water supplies to detect early signs of contamination and disease. This data could be used to ensure preventative treatments are available by keeping pharmaceutical companies one step ahead of illness.

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By 2050, we see cost pressures and concerns around food production leading to major changes across the food and beverage sector. Water and energy will be central to this debate.

We are already trialling a process to unlock the commercial potential of biomass ash, by turning this into a phosphate-rich fertiliser. If successful, the remains of one whisky batch could eventually help to grow the crops that make the next.

By 2050, we see new technology playing a significant part in helping both businesses and communities keep energy prices to a minimum. Biomass combustion technology, anaerobic digestion processes and water recovery systems can not only produce enough energy to power the factory, but thousands of local homes as well.

Veolia sits at the heart of a changing world, where the demands of water, waste and energy will inevitably shape the businesses of tomorrow. Let’s imagine together what 2050 will look like for you.


By 2050 it is estimated that 70% of the world's population will live in cities. It's a prospect that today we cannot even imagine. So Veolia Environment has joined forces with LSE Cities to visualise the challenges in terms of water, waste and energy use and provide future-proofed solutions.

Veolia is a valued sponsor of Powering the change conference.