What is a Circular Economy?
A Circular Economy describes an economic system which eliminates as much production waste as possible in order to continually reuse resources. In other words, it is a system which maximises the value of resources by recycling and repurposing them as much as possible.
This is in contrast to a conventional linear economy where products are made, used, and disposed of rather than made, used, reused (repurposed), recycled, and made again (into new products or the same product) in a circular fashion.
Of course, however, adopting a circular economic system of production is easy for some products but very difficult for others. Glass bottles, for instance, can pretty much be recycled infinitely with no loss of quality in the grade of the glass, whereas, single-use plastics such as cling film are frequently disposed of, not repurposed or reused, and are difficult to recycle – thus ending up in landfill (the ultimate destination for the linear economic system).
Why is a Circular Economy important?
A Circular Economy has numerous benefits and as pressures mount to becoming a more sustainable society these advantages would certainly help our society reach a sustainable status.
The two core advantages which particularly impress us as a waste management company are the fact that this cyclical system would create less waste and would reduce the negative impacts our production levels have on the environment. This is because there will be less demand for finite resources and in particular fossil fuels in order to create products because we will reuse and recycle our materials over and over again rather than binning them and sourcing fresh raw materials.
But, of course, this is, in essence, an economic model not just a waste reduction proposal and so for this system to be able to thrive in a capitalist society it must be of economic benefit, and according to studies conducted by WRAP and the Green Alliance it undoubtedly is.
Their studies found that if the UK did not adopt Circular Economy policies, then the economy will still grow and create around 200,000 new jobs, reducing unemployment by 54,000 by 2030. But that if the UK adopted Circular Economic policies, they estimate that around 500,000 new jobs would be created, reducing unemployment by 102,000.
Furthermore, without the need to consistently farm, gather, and extract new raw materials, some economists have argued that circular business models can be as profitable as linear models and even have the ability to surpass traditional systems, especially with the development of more advanced recycling technologies.
Are we on our way there?
Some industries are already beginning to adopt elements of a Circular Economy. The textiles industry, for example, is seeing numerous manufacturers recycling clothing material or taking bits of garment and repurposing them into new clothing products – jumper being used as an inside liner for a winter coat for instance.
In contrast to this, however, there are still plenty of brands in the textiles industry which promote fast fashion as their business model which completely juxtaposes the circular economic ambitions. Fast fashion refers to creating new styles of clothing, selling them for a short period of time, and then moving consumer expectations away from the original design to a new style of clothing in order to sell more clothes. It preys upon the idea that ‘you shouldn’t wear the same dress to an event twice’ which unfortunately seems to perpetuate western society. Luxury brands are typical fast fashion promoters and some companies such as Louis Vuitton never put their products up for sale and rarely re-release items and so if they do not sell a certain batch of clothing, they typically discard them.
Another industry which is definitely on its way to fully adopting the Circular Economy is the automobile industry. Car manufacturers are starting to use spare parts, broken parts of which they fix, and recycled materials in order to build new cars. Some manufacturers even have car recycling schemes in place where they take used and warn down versions of their cars, handed in by customers for a discount on their next car purchase, and fix them up or take valuable items from them in order to make new automobiles. Tesla, for instance, recycles their lithium batteries for new models.
One industry where the Circular Economy is not being adopted, however, is the oil and gas industry, where hundreds of thousands of tonnes of waste and equipment is disposed of rather than reused or recycled. This is such a large industry and so this needs to change if the Circular Economy can truly be adopted across the board.
How Waste Management can play its part
As has been alluded to earlier, the Circular Economy is fantastic at reducing the amount of waste produced by the economy and at minimising our negative environmental impact. But in order for the Circular Economy to work, waste needs to be recycled or reused rather than sent to landfill or other terminating facilities such as incinerators. That’s where waste management services play their part.
An environmentally conscious waste management service such as CheaperWaste, will ensure that as much business waste is recycled or repurposed as possible by adopting a zero-waste-to-landfill policy where commercial waste is segregated into types and transported with minimal contamination to treatment facilities in order to recycle the salvageable material.
Food waste, for instance, will be taken to a site which can use it for biofuel, Glass waste will be crushed, melted and remoulded into new glass products, and items such as paper and card will be shredded and recycled into new paper/card products.
If a businesses’ waste management provider is not environmentally conscious, however, and they unnecessarily and ignorantly take salvageable waste to landfill then the Circular Economy simply cannot thrive as they are carrying out a linear system. That’s why we urge businesses across the UK to ensure that they are using a waste management service which recycles as much as possible – not only to save the environment but to also bolster the entire economy.
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