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English

Interview

Julien Lesage

Photographie Julien Lesage

Circular economy expert

13 September 2021

"I run the trash dots to try to turn what nobody wants into what everyone else is pulling out."



Julien Lesage, you are an entrepreneur specializing in circular economy, tell us about your background.

So initially my dream was very far from the circular economy. I've always wanted to be a Formula 1 driver. I've never really had the opportunity to dig that. So, even today I don't know at all if I would have had the level to do it or not. I went to more affordable sports and had a bit of my career in archery: a few podiums at the French championships, and finally a title, then a record. After that, there was like an air hole. It's a sport with relatively few income prospects, so you had to look elsewhere.



You are passionate about fly fishing ... Is that what has developed in you a very strong passion for biodiversity?

It's silly, but I feel more comfortable in nature than in a crowd of humans. Nature has no ego. We can trust it all the time. In the end, it's quite contradictory to be passionate about biodiversity and at the same time go fishing. But in fact I never keep a fish, I am unable to kill them. Fly fishing is really a very special discipline that requires you to step aside completely, to be accepted by nature. You erase yourself, you observe for a long time, and you fish only after you have observed enough. It often happens in the evening at nightfall, and inevitably it gives the opportunity to witness the wildlife.



You created several companies as soon as you finished your studies, do you have an entrepreneurial spirit?

It was mainly the frustration that created this company. I didn't understand, and I still don't understand how you can waste so many resources that are just perfect. Producing requires consuming a lot of natural resources. Waste less (or reuse what was wasted before), it allows producing less. If we produce less, we consume less natural resources, we leave room for biodiversity.



You created several companies as soon as you finished your studies, do you have an entrepreneurial spirit?

I do not know at all how to define the entrepreneurial spirit. At first, these projects were not structured enough. At the time I thought it was believable, but honestly it was pretty ridiculous. On the other hand, it remains among the best moments of my life: being a student is still royal. So besides, having time to found companies with your friends is just crazy. We had so few responsibilities at the time that the creativity was limitless. Then I never considered doing otherwise. In fact, I don't even know how I could organize my life otherwise.



Your company, Hubcycle, supports large groups in their circular economy projects. What is your role exactly?

We identify the co-product streams: this is the waste, just before it ends up in the dumpster. We analyze the molecules they contain, and we develop the ingredients that use those molecules. The idea is to make products more virtuous and more respectful for the consumer. This work brings enough value to the co-products to buy them from our suppliers (all food factories), while selling our ingredients much cheaper than the competition to our customers (other food factories). We do this on hundreds of different co-products. The idea being that the waste of some becomes strategic raw materials for others. We do more with less.



What are the concrete examples that you can bring to your daily life?

I would incorporate a lot more connection with nature into education. How else can we be aware of our impact on it? Maybe an extra touch of aesthetics too, just for the eyes.



Your brother has a disability. Does it give you a different view of the world?

Yes of course. On the other hand, I do not want his situation to serve me on any point. He manages a thousand times better than I do problems a thousand times more complex than mine. So I just take this opportunity to pass a message.

Already, I love him so much that he's been the driving force in my whole life. His handicap is slight. It’s an emotional hypersensitivity. He doesn't hold back his feelings. So no one in the family is holding them back. Him, my parents, me, we often take the time to say that we love each other. It’s a foundation for a lot of things in my life. Society calls it a disability, it's mostly lucky to have people like him.

Above all, his situation makes me relativize a lot. I never complain. All doors were opened to me because I fit into the social model. He, his talents, his fiber, do not fit into this social model of the ego: no one has easily opened a door for him. Yet he deserves at least as much.



If you had the chance, what would you do to change the world?

I would incorporate a lot more connection with nature into education. How else can we be aware of our impact on it? Maybe an extra touch of aesthetics too, just for the eyes.



"There is nothing that is not wasted. There has to be a factory out there that throws away what another is absolutely looking for."

If you could time travel, what advice would you give to the child that you were?

Difficult this one. I think I would tell him to always be kind enough to himself to know how to answer that question at all times.