An introduction to the circular economy
By John Dillon, VP Marketing Superfy
The circular economy is an economic model that tackles environmental issues and takes action through a lens of sustainability. It’s no secret that we all over-consume, whether this is individually or on a commercial scale, and organisations, charities, and environmental activists are continuously looking for ways in which we can save our planet.
Greenly highlighted the history of the circular economy:
“Emerging in the 1970s, the notion of the circular economy refers to the sustainable production and consumption of goods as well as services. Based on the model of nature – where nothing is lost, everything is reused – it is about maximizing the use of all the resources used in the manufacture of a product, to avoid the massive output of electricity, trash, and wastefulness.
The key in this approach is to do more and better with less. In other words, instead of throwing away, it is advisable to repair, reuse and recycle. In this sense, a used product becomes a valuable resource.
Represented by a positive value loop where each step leads to the next, this economic model acts at all stages of a product’s life cycle.”
What can a circular economy look like in practice?
There are a number of excellent real-world examples of what a circular economy can look like – and in practice, these can be easy if adopted by the masses.
Example 1 – The Danish Deposit and Return System
Single-use plastic is a huge problem all around the world – from tonnes of plastic being retrieved from ocean clean-ups, through to the microplastics that are found in land and sea animals. Plastic can be considered one of the earth’s biggest nemesis. In July 2021, the EU directive on single-use plastics came into effect.
Aimed at reducing marine litter and assisting in the development of a circular economy, vast amounts of single-use plastics (such as cutlery, straws, cotton bud sticks, etc.) are now banned.
The Danish government implemented the deposit and return system – which simply operates to encourage citizens to deposit their recyclable materials to then receive a small sum of money in return – which they would have paid for the total cost of the item. These materials are then reused, resulting in less waste and a lower cost of production.
[Source: State Of Green]
Example 2 – Singapore’s zero-waste initiatives
Singapore is known to be one of the most efficient and cleanest places in the world, which is why it’s no surprise that they’re working on multiple zero-waste initiatives, one of them including the adoption of a circular economy approach in as many areas of their city as possible.
Their approach puts the onus on producers of said waste, stating “when producers are responsible for the ‘end-of-life’ of their products, they will be more incentivised to design products that are easily recycled, or come up with innovative circular business models”.
Another area that the Singaporean government looked into was a research grant, called “Closing The Waste Loop” initiative. The grant looks to encourage and foster partnerships with research institutes and businesses. Singapore’s collaborative approach is what has enabled them to have success with its circular economy efforts thus far.
It’s important to note that collaboration and buy-in are crucial when introducing a circular approach, whether this is from the four walls of your home to your business. For example, if you’re a CEO of an organisation whereby 80% of your staff are invested and also incentivised to adopt a circular approach, you’ll find that the conversion of the other 20% would take a lot less time.
However, if there is no incentive – and no ambassadors to help drive a circular approach, it can then become too top-heavy, and you’ll struggle to permeate the other layers of your business. A circular approach is more than just asking employees or citizens to recycle their plastic or cans – it’s a shift in mindset and often behaviours.
[Source: Singapore Gov]
So, how can you start to make a change?
- Think about 2-3 things you can do a year to work towards a more circular economy: Trying to do too much at once can have the opposite effect. Instead – look at your organisation and focus on 2-3 things that you can do each year that contributes to a more circular ecosystem.
- If you haven’t already, eliminate single-use: We know how damaging single-use plastic is, so why do we continue to purchase it? Whether it’s cups, glasses and mugs in your office kitchen to replace plastic and cardboard, as well as replacing cutlery and encouraging employees to be paperless (where possible) – this can make a huge difference.
- Integrate sustainability and a circular approach into the fibre of your organisation: If you’re serious about this, you have to ensure that the behaviours and attitudes are emulated across your organisation. How can you integrate a circular approach into your everyday? How can this motivate and inspire employees? These are all relevant questions you have to ask yourself before beginning this journey!
For more information on Superfy solutions for a circular economy, visit www.superfy.com