Konstantin Novoselov, professor at the National University of Singapore and inventor of graphene called for a move beyond the circular economy, only possible with the development of new technologies and materials which can the end of cycle of producing ever rising amounts of new waste.

The Nobel-Prize-winning physicist acknowledged that while new technologies are solving many issues, giving the example of improvements in lithium battery and solar cell efficiency helping in the fight for sustainability, “there is still this whack-a-mole affect where you create a solution and that solution hits back at you”.

Industries need to look at how new materials are recycled across the ecosystem, he insisted.

“Unfortunately, singularly is always broken by new technologies. We have to invent solutions out of the box to escape from this race on the closed loop. The circular economy is not good enough anymore, we need to move to spiral economies.”

In a spiral economy a material or product is reused as long as possible before it is converted into energy, while a circular economy doesn’t include the final step.

Novoselov gave the example of adding nano-materials to concrete, one of the biggest CO2 emitting industries in the world. By adding less than 0.5 per cent of graphene to the mix could increase its strength by 30 per cent to 70 per cent. “You add a tiny amount of this product… and you reduce the amount of concrete you need to produce by up to half.”

He said it’s a great time to live in such a renaissance of science, with advances in genome sequencing, quantum supremacy and generative AI.