Welcome to "Snack-sized sustainability". Part of our simply sustainability podcast brought to you by Clarasys. Each snippet will see me, Sarah Hammond, discuss a key sustainability concept in less than five minutes, so grab a snack and get comfortable.
On today's episode, we're going to be discussing circularity and the term circular economy.
So what is circularity?
Circularity is actually very simple. It's when a product or service is created with its end of life taken into account so that once an individual is finished with something, it doesn't go into landfill.
Circularity has reduce, reuse and recycle at its very core and thus centers around reusing, repairing, remanufacturing or upcycling. Circular supply chains seek to define a closed loop system, which removes the need for any new materials to both reduce waste creation and maximize waste reuse. But why is it so important?
Circularity is hugely important as our world and particularly our environment continues to struggle to deal with the waste that we create. Theworldcounts.com says every year we dump a massive 2.12 billion, tons of waste on the planet. If all of this waste was put on trucks, they would go around the world 24 times.
The effects of waste can not be underestimated. The pollution of our soil, air pollution, pollution of oceans and pollution of brown water happening as a result. Again, theworldcounts.com says that by 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in the sea if we continue the way that we're going.
The definition of circularity has been extended, not only to describe a supply chain or system, but a whole economy using the term circular economy. So what does this mean?
What is a circular economy?
A circular economy is based on reduce, reuse, recycle and minimizing the creation of anything new using renewable energy and materials and it also has systems thinking at its core.
Systems thinking refers to all individuals who often referred to as actors, having their opinion considered and heard by holistically understanding a whole system over time, rather than breaking it down into its silos. A system is a set of things that interact to produce something greater than the sum of its parts. We can't just fix the problem. For example, high carbon in the atmosphere without looking at the whole system that creates it. And all of those that are affected by it.
By using systems thinking we understand impacts and are able to minimize any negative impacts on the individuals and the environment. However, in order to achieve this successful networks must be established in order to create a system of thinking that enables everyone to be heard. Furthermore, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation says that a circular economy has three main elements: eliminate waste and pollution, create circular products and materials and to regenerate nature.
A circular economy is a comparison to what we typically have nowadays, a linear economy.
A linear economy uses raw materials that are then thrown away after use. A key element in transitioning from a linear economy to a circular economy is redefining success.
At the moment we primarily use GDP growth to define success. However, many economists are starting to look at the accuracy and viability of doing this and have noted that it isn't particularly healthy, both environmentally and socially, for economy to continue to have such exponential growth. And this exponential growth is often at the detriment of the environment. Thus, whilst GDP growth is an important indicator, we should begin to introduce and favour other indicators of success that focus on the environment such as quantity of recycling or the amount of secondary material used within any given country.
And whilst at the moment, there is no one single measure present, there are a number of indicators that can be used to determine how circular of an economy it is. Whilst the need for organizations to become circular is critical in saving our planet there are also many benefits for organizations. It minimizes risk due to the scarcity of resources and thus increases the resilience of an organization by using renewables. It also reduces the impact of an organization by building it into their environmental reporting. And lastly, in terms of the economy, a circular economy will create job opportunities for the workforce.
So how do you become circular?
To become circular, you need to make it a core element of your business model.
What happens to your products once the consumer has finished with them? How can you minimize any negative impacts from this, and how can the environment and your organization benefit as a result?
If you want to transform your organization into a circular organization, then please reach out to us today. We'd love to talk to you.
Thank you for listening to Snack-sized sustainability. We hope you enjoyed it and learned something new. Please do let us know if there are any key sustainability concepts you'd like us to cover. We look forward to welcoming you back on our next episode.