By Larraine Roulston:
Many businesses are beginning to understand the economic and environmental benefits of eliminating waste. This shift in redesigning products or sourcing new ways to use existing items is essentially laying the groundwork to establish a new worldwide circular economy.
One example is a new package model called Loop, an online shopping platform where several well known brand name products with disposable plastic packaging will be replaced with durable packaging that is collected, cleaned and refilled. TerraCycle’s recycling specialist Tom Szaky, who announced Loop stated, “Plastic is not the evil. The evil is using something once.”
MIT’s “Solve”initiative has invited innovators to enter a Circular Economy Challenge and to create products with zero waste and minimal impact on the environment. The “Solve”approach “will require changes in product design and business approaches that have ripple effects throughout supply chains and economic systems.”
In 2018, authors David Grayson, Chris Coulter and Mark Lee released their book, “All In: The Future of Business Leadership” and predicted a “Regenerative Era” of business. They stated, “We believe that as we get closer to 2025, there will be a critical mass of companies committing to a circular economy or closed-loop approach to business, as well as a redesign of business models to optimize the economic, environmental and social positives of all they do.”
After all, not too many years ago products were designed and built to last and to be repaired. Television repairmen made house calls to replace worn tubes. Within shopping malls, shoe repair booths and seamstresses were prevalent. Clothes were lengthened and shortened to keep in style. Even ladies’ stockings could be mended with a little gadget called a stocking mender. Over time, however, a slow but steady global trend led the public towards a throwaway culture which has resulted in more than two billion tons of solid wastebeing created annually.
The manufacturing of single-use plastics — and that includes the large green garbage bags that replaced the reusable tin garbage cans— has a destructive impact on our ecosystem. As well, continuous upgrading of electronics and fast fashionare also accelerating negative effects on our climate.
Canada’s Recycling Council of Ontario is just one environmental grassroots organization that has long been working to advance the circular economy, in particular through procurement. As stated in its mandate to work towards change, “It’s our position that organizations and in particular governments across the country have unrealized potential to advance circular economy models and principles through purchasing and procurement that meet their environmental objectives while helping to transform the marketplace. By applying circular procurement principles, we can drive market shifts through service agreements that favour [sic] access over ownership, change vendor relationships to require product take-back and, most importantly, integrate specification to minimize waste or require products designed to be easily recycled. In March 2018, we co-hosted workshops with the City of Toronto to demonstrate how procurement links with the circular economy and waste reduction through engaging presentations and sector case studies.”
With this concept todesign out pollution and waste, keep both products and materials for future use, and regenerate natural systems, the new circular economy is steadily gaining momentum; however, it will take time to produce results.
Larraine writes children’s illustrated books on composting and pollinating. To view, please visit, www.castlecompost.com