The circular economy in action
In a circular economy, the intention is to revolutionise our relationship with stuff to produce no waste. Instead, stuff is used for as long as possible, delivering the highest value it can, for as long as it can.
Rather than making something, using it, and then throwing it away (which is what happens in a ‘linear’ economy), a circular economy means finding ways to recirculate materials and products to be used again and again, and in many different forms. Materials are continuously cycled back to provide inputs for new products and services.
What might revolutionising our relationship with stuff look like for a business? This article will help you think about the opportunities of embracing the circular economy for your business. We will introduce five different types of circular business models and many businesses have already made the shift to circular models – and are realising the vast benefits from doing so. We’ll be sharing examples of those who have to inspire you!
Using stuff wisely
In this circular business model, waste is minimised or even prevented by becoming more efficient with the materials you use. How might you reduce waste and make the most out of every bit of material your business buys?
Winnow is a perfect example of this. They have created smart scales that allow chefs to monitor food waste and adjust their ordering to save both wasted food and money.
In the built environment sector, Qflow automates the collection and analysis of waste and material data and feeds back the insights that matter, to reduce waste and help drive both commercial and carbon savings. Using stuff again
Using stuff again
In this circular economy business model, materials are captured at the end of their first life and used again for a different purpose.
SmilePlastics’ mission is to change the way people view and value materials by taking waste and transforming it into decorative materials and products. The business creates custom products from difficult to recycle waste streams, for example plastic chopping boards. The finished products are diverse and versatile and are used to fit out stores and cafés with worktops, cupboards, displays for visual merchandising and even bathroom interiors.
Toast Ale makes planet-saving craft beer. The business brews beer using surplus fresh bread from large sandwich producers, that could otherwise go to waste. And it makes business sense too as the surplus bread they are getting for free replaces a third of the barley they would need to buy. Now that’s a great idea worth raising a glass to.
DRESD specialise in circular solutions for the waste streams developed in the creative industries; particularly film, TV and commercial events. They provide a service that aims for a full circle of reuse, which includes storing, reusing and upcycling set elements to reduce waste within the industry. The company reclaims previously used sets, props and waste materials that would otherwise be disposed of and ensures they are used on future productions. This reuse of materials that would previously have been disposed of or destroyed, saves both money and resources.
Making things well
Designing things to last as long as possible by making them durable, and ensuring they can be maintained, re-used and repaired over time is a great way to become more circular.
Many of us couldn’t live without our smart phones, with the average British consumer replacing theirs every 27.7 months. Whilst they have undoubtedly made our lives easier, they are rarely recycled correctly and contribute to the 40 million tonnes of e-waste improperly disposed of each year, globally. The Teracube phone has been designed in a way to ensure it can be reused and repaired over and over again – even by the customer themselves!
ClubZero are redesigning the takeaway package. They partner with businesses to replace often non-recyclable, single-use takeaway containers for food and beverages, with reusable containers made from 100% recyclable packaging which can be used time and time again.
Renting, not buying
Can you lease or rent products into your business instead of buying them? This would mean the burden of maintenance, repair and recycling falls on the provider – not you.
And similarly, instead of selling products, you could offer them to lease, rent or through a subscription model, taking responsibility for managing the maintenance, repair, and recycling of products. This could help you generate multiple revenues from the same item over time!
To reduce waste and keep products in use for as long possible, Lendobox helps retailers and ‘experience providers’ such as campsites offer rental products to customers. Not only does this reduce waste and keep products in use for as long possible, renting instead of selling is good for business too.
Get maximum value and use out of underutilised products, buildings, vehicles by sharing them with peers.
The National Theatre for example helps minimise the impact of theatrical productions by offering its many thousands of beautifully crafted costumes and props from past National Theatre productions to schools and universities, theatre and opera, television, video, marketing and events companies.
ShareDining is an online platform connecting kitchen owners across London with kitchen users. All potential kitchen users are vetted and must provide evidence that they hold all the required certifications and insurances.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerability of the current economic system. Thanks to funding from the Mayor of London’s Green New Deal fund, we are offering businesses in London free support to help identify circular opportunities for your business and to develop a circular business model and action plan that is resilient and fit-for-the-future.
If the examples above have inspired you, get in touch to find how we can help you.