21 November 2013: A report published today by Veolia Environnement and the London School of Economics envisages the home of the future with nanoscopic robots sorting materials, self-cleaning bathrooms and ultrasonic baths. However it also contains stark warnings with two contrasting visions of urban living in 2050.
'Imagine 2050' was developed by leading environmental services company Veolia Environnement in partnership with the LSE. Under both scenarios, environmental technology will transform the home of the future - one in the context of a circular economy, the other in the context of a linear economy.
The report describes one future city in which system-level planning has created a dense, resource-efficient society characterised by collaborative consumption, shared ownership and local self-reliance. Alongside this, it models a scenario in which disparate and unregulated development has led to a resource-hungry urban sprawl where private consumption and ownership is prioritised over long-term communal thinking.
The 2050 home includes a kitchen where waste is sorted by nanoscopic robots and food packaging that is designed to degrade in line with sell-by dates. Meanwhile the bathroom features ultrasonic baths, self-cleaning surfaces and water purification based on systems found in plants and bacteria. Homes have 3D printers and new paints and materials optimising natural light and improve energy conservation. Some of these technologies are already in development.
In the more efficient city, emissions have been reduced by 80% (since 1990), compared to 40% in the contrasting scenario. Water consumption is almost a third less - 100 litres per person per day instead of 130 litres.
Estelle Brachlianoff, Veolia Environnement Executive Vice-President, UK and Northern Europe, said: "By 2050 it's estimated that 70% of the world's population will live in cities. We need to start thinking now about how to lock urban lifestyles into more sustainable pathways. We already have much of the technology we need to recycle, recover and reuse precious resources, but we also need a shift in public attitudes and greater engagement from government and business.
"A comprehensive policy framework would help to drive a joined-up approach to resource management from the public and private sectors. The UK's Resource Security Action Plan is a step in the right direction, but it must be supported by legislation and meaningful incentives and penalties.Only then will we see real progress towards the kind of cities we want our children to live in."
Dr Savvas Verdis, Senior Research Fellow for LSE Cities at the London School of Economics, added: "We know from studying cities across Europe that the best-performing cities use a combination of infrastructure investment and innovative policies to encourage sustainable lifestyles. A circular economy cannot be built piecemeal, a systems-wide approach is essential."
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Notes to the Editor
About Veolia Environnement
Veolia Environnement (Paris Euronext: VIE and NYSE: VE) is the worldwide reference in environmental solutions. With 220,000 employees*, the company has operations all around the world and provides tailored solutions to meet the needs of municipal and industrial customers in three complementary segments: water management, waste management and energy management. Veolia Environnement recorded revenue of €29.4 billion* in 2012.
(*) Excluding Transdev employees and revenues currently under divestment