Have You Heard of the Circular Economy?

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Our climate is changing and waste is piling up. Switching to a circular economy is one way of mitigating the worsening climate emergency and is a system we can all progress towards with intent.

What Is The Circular Economy?

A circular economy is one where nothing is wasted. All resources are used in many ways and as much as possible. This happens when you follow all those R’s you may have heard of, like reuse, repair, repurpose, and recycle. A large part of the circular economy is the recycling of materials to reduce the need for new resource extraction. This allows valuable resources to be kept in an infinite loop.

Reusing valuable resources and repurposing or rethinking waste are two principles of this way of business. Through a circular economy we can innovate our waste disposal and recycling programs, and support companies that are making a positive impact.

What Is The Purpose

Our current economic system is not one in harmony with natural environments. The way it extracts, uses, and disposes of resources puts a lot of strain on our ecosystems. Our current system is open and linear, a straight line that starts with extraction and ends in disposal. Because it’s an open system there is more room for inefficiency and waste. However, when a system is circular it forces users to become more accountable for the materials used and emissions created.

Two side by side images comparing the Linear versus Circular Economy Models
Image credit: Recycling Council of BC

Principles of the Circular Economy

Eliminate Waste and Pollution

The planet’s resources are finite, and single use items consume these resources at a rapid rate. Although many items are currently made to be single use and disposable, they don’t have to be. These items are designed to become waste, like chip bags and food wrappings. Additionally, for many of these products viable recycling options do not yet exist so the only option for them is the landfill. In a circular economy, the solution is a new design from the beginning that allows the material to be used again, and again.

Circulate Products and Materials

Circulating materials means those materials have a use beyond their original purpose. This is the reason there is less waste, even single use items are repurposed. Although the circular economy is one system, there are two main cycles within it:

  • The Technical Cycle – where products are reused, repaired, remanufactured, and recycled.
  • The Biological Cycle – where biodegradable materials are returned to the earth through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion.

    Image source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Overall, an economy based on materials progressing around the two cycles keeps resources in the system and can fully eliminate negative environmental impacts such as pollution and waste.

Regeneration of Nature

To regenerate nature is to shift focus from the extraction of resources to their regeneration. We can do this by practicing regenerative farming, and repurposing food waste into other materials. When we regenerate nature we increase biodiversity, and create more nutrient rich soil. Because soil would be naturally nutrient rich there is less of a need for pesticides, which can have negative environmental impacts.

Overall, a switch to a circular economy benefits consumers, employees, employers, and the environment. But it requires a transformation of the current economic system in many ways. How we manage, extract, and import resources will change. Along with the ways we make and dispose/reuse of them and the byproducts.

So is ElectroRecycle part of the Circular Economy?

Yes! Recycling is a step in the circular economies process. When the 400+ different types of products accepted by our program are brought to an ElectroRecycle collection site they are:

  1. Transported to Canadian facilities where different material types (glass, metal, or plastic) are separated and sorted.
  2. The separated materials are processed into raw materials at a recycling facility.
  3. The raw materials are used by manufacturers to make new products, thereby completing the loop. Learn more about our program here.

Other Examples of the Circular Economy in Action

This Cattle Station was suffering before changes were made to the landscape to naturally combat erosion, create suitable grounds for native animals to repopulate and thrive, and restore the biodiversity of the land.

Image source: Copyright © Ellen MacArthur Foundation (2021)

Enterra Feed Corp from B.C., feeds food waste to insects to make a nutrient rich pet food (insects are a great source of protein!). Did you know, meat is both a large source of carbon emissions and requires substantial land and water resources.  Since approximately one-fourth of the world’s meat production is used to feed pets, advocates of alternative sources of protein are focusing on making changes to the pet food supply chain. Simultaneously, Enterra Feed Corp reduces the environmental impacts of conventional animal feed production, while also keeping city food scraps (and the nutrients in them) in the loop and out of the landfill.

Image credit: Photka – Canva.com

This company in the Netherlands collects food waste such as coffee grounds and orange peels and redistributes them to product manufacturers to make things like food ingredients, cosmetics and biomaterials.

ChopValue founded in Vancouver, has a mission to redefine the term waste to resource, one chopstick at a time. Check out their Recycling Program to get an unlimited supply of chopsticks for your restaurant!

Chopvalue Microfactory. Image source: Chopvalue.com
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