Applying the concept of a circular economy to your company can offer significant advantages.
The circular economy, in its most basic form, refers to moving from a traditional take-make-dispose linear economy, to one in which materials are continuously repurposed until they are finally recycled.
It’s a closed loop, hence the term “circular”.
But, how can you - and why should you - incorporate a closed-loop, circular economy into your company? Below we’ll explore what the circular economy concept is, and how it can impact your operations.
What Is The Circular Economy?
Our current economic model relies heavily on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy. It’s a model that’s been relied upon since the dawn of the industrial revolution.
However, as more and more companies turn toward improving their sustainability models, and with reports of resource depletion becoming more frequent, applying the circular economy concept to your business is becoming more important than ever.
A circular economy is a concept that provides a framework for an economy that is designed to be restorative or regenerative. It redefines growth - focusing on benefits that are society-wide, with the goal to design waste and pollution out of a system, while at the same time keeping products and materials in use.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched in 2010 with the goal of accelerating the transition to a circular economy. The organization emphasizes that this type of system must work effectively for everyone … large and small businesses, organizations and individuals.
In the end, working toward a circular economy must be a systemic shift that not only generates business and economic opportunities, but also provides environmental benefits as well.
How Does The Model Impact Industry?
One of the areas that the circular economy concept can have the largest impact is in the recycling of waste. If your company is part of the industrial sector, or is a regular waste generator, you can apply the concept of a circular economy to how you manage your waste.
Waste has long been a major environmental issue. Humans generate millions of tons of waste each year worldwide.
Many companies have taken advantage of open loop recycling as a way to delay disposal of materials. This process converts manufactured goods and spent materials into new raw materials or as a fuel source for a different manufacturing process.
However, closed loop recycling embraces the circular economy concept because it focuses on resource sustainability, which means that recycling of a material can be done indefinitely without degradation of properties.
In other words, the process is regenerative by design and aims to keep materials at their highest utility and value always.
Specialized industries, such as the computer and battery industries, have been among those embracing this highest level of recycling since they often use expensive or complex goods that cannot easily be broken down post-consumption into constituent materials.
You can read more about how the closed loop recycling process works in our article, Solvent Distillation And The Energy Recovery Process Explained.
How Does This Benefit Your Business?
By investing in the sustainability practices of your company, you open yourself up to a host of benefits. In fact, you’d be among your peers who believe corporate sustainability isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
One academic article even noted that among CEOs surveyed, more than 90% believe integrating environmental, economic and social issues into their companies’ operations is important to success.
Some of the benefits include:
- You Will Reduce Costs - Some worry that implementing sustainable practices that contribute to a circular economy will eat into profits. In reality, sustainable business practices create efficient operations and by conserving resources and enhancing productivity, costs are reduced.
- You Will Improve Your Image - Today, consumers are more educated and care about the influence of their purchasing power. A survey by the Natural Marketing Institute found that nearly 60% of consumers are more likely to purchase goods and services from a company that practices sustainability.
- You Will Reduce Your Footprint - The old way of thinking for many businesses involved sending their hazardous waste to a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility, which then performed fuel blends on site. Once that occurred, the facilities transported the fuel blended waste to cement kiln facilities. However, for waste coming from the west, the closest cement kiln facilities are located in the Midwest.
Transportation alone across the United States can produce more than 1,500 kg of carbon dioxide. Even after your waste leaves your hands, the carbon footprint of your company is still impacted.
With a new way of thinking that is tied directly to implementing the circular economy concept, companies can ensure no part of their generated waste is wasted. Closed loop recycling is a viable and smart option for companies today wanting to achieve the highest level of sustainability.
In the end, you’ll not only join the circular economy movement, which will help you achieve the sustainable development goals in your company’s business plan. But, you’ll also have an advantage in the marketplace that puts you on the leading edge of corporate responsibility.