‘Circular economy’ is a term you may frequently hear, particularly since COP26 has thrown the consequences of climate change into the spotlight, but do you know what a circular economy is?
In this blog, we will explore what a circular economy is, how it can play an important part in the fight against climate change and if it is sustainable for businesses to adopt.
What is a circular economy?
Currently, the majority of global businesses operate under a linear economy which means they harvest materials from the Earth, make new products and dispose of them as waste at the end of their life span. This process is harming the planet so that’s why we need to start making the shift to a circular economy.
Put simply, a circular economy is “a production and consumption system that relies on recycling, reuse, repair, remanufacturing and sharing of products” (source: Circular). It’s all about using materials to create products which are already in the ecosystem rather than using raw materials. When the product is no longer suitable for use, a circular economy would see that product recycled with the material used again to manufacturer a new product. This closed-loop system eliminates the need for virgin materials to be made which saves energy and lowers carbon emissions.
If we are to move towards a more circular economy, big industry leaders need to take some responsibility and lead by example.
Companies that have already pledged to move towards a more circular economy include H&M Group, Tesco and Lush Cosmetics (source: Ellen Macarthur Foundation).
Why is the circular economy important in the fight against climate change?
The linear economy is responsible for the take, make, dispose mentality which is convenient for businesses but is detrimental to the environment. This type of economy operates on the assumption that there are endless amounts of resources to take but we all know that is no longer true. The linear economy is now causing a great deal of harm to our Earth. Taking resources uses energy and consumes an incredible amount of water, emits toxic substances and disrupts natural habitats. Making goods again uses a lot of energy, water and pollutes the environment and when the products are discarded, they often end up in landfill sites.
This system is not sustainable in the long run as we will simply run out of resources and cause even more harm to the environment. According to Circle Economy, 62% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from the extraction, processing and production of goods. Pressure on materials is already evident. Since 2006, prices for raw materials have significantly increased with demand for raw materials high due to the growth in population. Circle Economy predicts that the number of middle class consumers (with a higher demand for material consumption) will increase by three billion by 2030 (source: Circle Economy). That should be reason enough to implement circular economies across the globe.
A circular economy will give our ecosystem a chance to recover, reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and therefore reverse the effects of climate change, ensuring that soil, air and water bodies remain resilient and productive.
Is a circular economy sustainable?
The world has been operating on a linear economy for hundreds of years so we understand it will require a huge shift in behaviour and a lot of effort. With such a big task ahead, you may be asking yourself, is a circular economy sustainable?
It’s hard to determine whether a circular economy is realistic for businesses to maintain in the future as we are only just starting to see big corporations committing to the shift in new behaviours, but the outlook is certainly positive. There are barely any negatives out there from companies who have adopted a circular approach and business leaders have reported that their customers are much more receptive to their circular products.
Consumer behaviour is shifting with GenZ as the generation which cares the most about sustainable buying, 75%, according to a new study (source: World Economic Forum).
If businesses hope to sustain success and maintain future growth, a circular economy is the way to go. Operating a linear economy will only be detrimental. There’s plenty of support out there too to ensure that the circular economy you adopt within your business is sustainable. If you’re based in the UK, check out Scotland’s Circular Economy Business Support Service; ReLondon; GreenGain for West and North Yorkshire or this course from the South West Business Council.
How to implement a circular economy within your business
We understand that creating a circular economy within your business is a big task and requires a considerable amount of time and investment. However, it won’t feel so overwhelming if you start with small changes which build up over time.
Firstly, we would recommend identifying the areas of your business which can easily be changed from linear to circular. Waste management is an easy one to start with.
DCW offers free waste audits to businesses which are looking to become more sustainable. Our waste audit will identify the areas where you can improve and recommend services which will help your business move towards a more circular economy.
If you decide to appoint DCW as your waste management and recycling service, you will be contributing to the circular economy in the South West. That’s one big tick for you!
As a zero to landfill business, all materials that can be recycled, are, with absolutely nothing ending up in landfill. Where we can, we process waste for recycling which then goes into the making of other products. Take our plastics recycling service as an example.
The plastic waste we collect from businesses across the South West goes into the making of our recycled plastic furniture range. The process saves valuable energy and keeps plastic waste away from the ecosystem, reducing the need for virgin plastic products to be made. It’s also an excellent alternative to timber as the furniture is weatherproof, will not rot, splinter or corrode or every require painting or creosoting. You can find out more about our recycled products range here.
We have also implemented our own circular economy scheme for our customers to opt-in to, giving businesses the option to adopt an even more sustainable approach to waste management. Customers are asked to separate their waste at source into separate sacks. By doing this, it means DCW can increase its recycling rate by up to 94%, a 50% increase on recycling through the scheme.
We hope this blog has provided you with a good introduction on the circular economy and has inspired you to start thinking of ways in which your business can adopt a more circular approach.
If you would like to find out more about DCW’s services, contact the team on 01392 361300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.