A circular economy is defined as an economic system that focuses on eliminating waste and the unnecessary use of resources.
Circular systems create a closed loop system that promotes the continuous repurposing of materials until they are finally recycled.
The goal...to use as few resources as possible by keeping materials in circulation and getting the greatest value from them.
If your company generates waste, incorporating a circular economy system into your waste management plans and understanding how the process can apply to your waste streams can offer many long-term benefits.
Below, we’ll provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions surrounding the definition of a circular economy is so that you can learn more about how it benefits your operation.
How Exactly Does A Circular Economy Work?
A circular economy provides a framework that is designed to be restorative or regenerative. It works by ultimately designing waste and pollution out of a system, yet keeping products and materials in use.
Currently, many companies operate under the take-make-waste approach of a traditional linear economy business model. However, this approach hurts economic growth because companies are faced with unpredictable raw material prices and the increased cost of constrained resources.
However, a circular economy aims to keep materials and products in use indefinitely or as “food” for a process, therefore easing the burden on natural resources.
One example of a circular economy model in practice is that of the company HYLA Mobile. While many of us are eager to get the newest smartphone, the phones we no longer want must end up somewhere. This company works with leading manufacturers and service providers to take the devices and their components and either re-purpose or reuse them.
The company estimates it has reused more than 53 million devices, generating $6 billion in value and keeping thousands of tons of e-waste from landfills.
What’s The Difference Between Open Loop and Closed Loop?
More and more companies are utilizing an open loop recycling system as a way to dispose of their materials. This process converts manufactured goods and spent materials into new raw materials or as a fuel source for a different manufacturing process.
In fact, one of the most common examples of open loop recycling is fuel blending. This service is considered environmentally friendly for solvent-based liquids, solids and sludge. The process blends organic waste streams into an alternative fuel for kilns used in manufacturing cement.
Closed loop recycling embraces the circular economy concept. It focuses on resource sustainability, or in other words, the recycling of a material indefinitely without degradation of properties.
Closed loop recycling is especially popular in specialized industries, including auto manufacturing, pharmaceutical and biotech industries, local, state and federal government agencies, because they use expensive or complex goods that cannot be easily broken down into constituent materials.
Another example of a closed loop recycling process is aluminum cans. These can easily be recycled to create new cans without degrading the material or creating additional waste.
How Does Implementing A Circular Economy Benefit My Business?
Implementing a circular economy into your waste processes can provide substantial benefits for your business. After all, anytime you increase your sustainability practices, you open yourself up to positive results.
Experts estimate that by 2030, the circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion of additional economic output globally. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation also estimates that if companies focused on building circular supply chains, more than $1 trillion a year could be generated globally by 2025, along with 100,000 new jobs in the next few years.
So, what kind of benefits could you expect to see by integrating a higher level of sustainability into your business?
- Reduced costs: Sustainable business practices create efficient operations. By conserving resources and enhancing productivity, additional costs are reduced.
- Improved image: Consumers care about their purchases, and have substantial purchasing power. A recent survey even found more than half of consumers are more likely to purchase goods from a sustainable company.
- Reduced footprint: When companies send their hazardous waste to fuel blending facilities, they substantially increase their carbon footprint. That’s because fuel blended waste is then taken to cement kiln facilities, and for waste coming from the west, the closest cement kiln facilities are across the country in the Midwest. This transportation alone can produce more than 1,500 kg of carbon dioxide.
You can read more about how the circular economy impacts your business in our article, How Does The Circular Economy Concept Apply To Your Company?
How Can I Get Help?
For years, manufacturing companies have looked for ways to improve their sustainable development and increase their renewable energy sources. Yet many fear higher costs that often are perceived to come with improved sustainability.
However, Temarry has successfully developed a closed-loop process that takes an existing physical product, industrial solvents, and recycles it with useful waste byproduct. By investing in the following technologies, Temarry has given companies the tools to embrace a circular economy and improve their sustainability practices:
- Waste to Energy - converts high BTU organic solids to steam to be used as energy on-site.
- Solvent Distillation - utilizes the steam from WTE as energy to power the recovery stills. By distillation, spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties.
- Water Treatment - extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes including acids, bases, coolants, oily water and latex paint. Treated water is used on-site for industrial needs including WTE and a cooling tower.
For companies located in the Western United States, this process creates even bigger environmental impacts, since for more than 20 years, Temarry Recycling has been legally transporting hazardous waste into Mexico for recycling at solvent distillation recovery stills on site.
As many companies begin to examine the environmental impact they make through hazardous waste transportation, there has become more of a need for a low-cost alternative treatment facility nearby.
Because of Temarry’s prime location in Tecate, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego, CA, companies can substantially reduce their waste transportation costs AND reduce their carbon footprints in the process.
The definition of a circular economy focuses on using as few resources as possible by keeping materials in circulation and getting the greatest value from them.
Though this may mean something different to every company, one thing is for certain: If your company generates waste, incorporating a sustainability plan that embraces the goals of a circular economy can provide many long-term benefits to your business, the environment and the community as a whole.