Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Guest blog from @JunkWize "A #CircularEconomy: The gift that keeps on giving"

In December 2012 the European Commission published a Manifesto for a Resource-Efficient Europe. In its opening line it stated that “in a world with growing pressures on resources and the environment, the EU has no choice but to go for the transition to a resource-efficient and ultimately regenerative circular economy”. Now, whatever your views are on the EU, you’d be hard pushed to criticise the basic philosophy behind that statement. But are there any downsides or major obstacles standing in the way of the actual creation of a circular economy?

In other words, what are the potential sticking points with having an economy where things are created with the intention that they will be used, reused and recycled? Well, we had a brainstorm at JunkWize and this is what we came up with:

  • The mass collaboration of different organisations and people with very different intentions would be needed.
  • Planned obsolescence is a well-known technique in the fashion and technology sectors, so the way those products are made would need to change.
  • In some cases costs can increase for businesses if they want to make new products with recycled materials. The processing and management costs of recycling something can be greater that making it from scratch.
  • Not all things can be recycled.
  • Not everyone wants a recycled product due to perceived dirtiness and weakness.
  • Recycling is seen by many people as a chore so they don’t do it. Recycling would need to become effortless if a circular economy was to work.

Yet the more we discussed these ‘problems’, the more we realised that in actual fact almost every sector in the economy (cars, clothing, packaging etc.) has dipped its toe into the circular economy model already without experiencing ill effect.

VW has been using a significant amount of recycled materials in its cars for years. In 2009 they proudly announced that the MV VI Golf was made from over 40% recycled materials. What’s significant about projects like this is that they were not small scale (since 1974 over 2000 Golfs have been sold daily).

Even Nike is getting in on the act. The company that turns over £15 billion per annum has said publicly that “we will be providing products that allow businesses to grow, are profitable, meet the demands of shareholders but are also de-coupled from scarce resources.” Since 1990 Nike have also been recycling millions of their shoes into new shoes and sports track and court playing surfaces.
So it’s clear that if recycling is done correctly then profits can increase for the product creators as well.

This all shows that recycling and profitability are not diametrically opposed to one another. Quite the opposite, in fact. Take JunkWize as an example. If it weren’t for waste and recycling then the company wouldn’t exist and we’d all be out of a job!

So how do we get more and more people to commit to the circular economy? From our point of view we feel that the one link in the chain that is weakest is the recycling sector. If our politicians are serious about getting us to reduce, reuse and recycle, then the recycling sector needs to be expanded rapidly. Designers and manufacturers also need to create uses for materials which at present simply cannot be recycled.

So we already live in an economy that in a large part is circular already. Now we just need to foster the growth and make sure that it’s clear to people that there are no downsides to committing to it.

This article was written for EMERGE by JunkWize; a Greater London serving rubbish clearance company. Just like EMERGE, JunkWize are a local solution provider with a strong '3Rs' ethos; they recycle as much of the rubbish they collect as possible and they only use landfill as the very last resort. They have a licence from the Environment Agency and they have just celebrated their first year in business.



EMERGE provides environmental education and advice on resource management, waste composition and sustainable procurement issues. Our business services include everything from recycling collections to confidential document shredding.  

We are now working in partnership with Cooler Projects to deliver carbon literacy training for businesses across Greater Manchester.  For more info see www.carbonliteracy.com or speak to Liz Lauder on 0161 223 8200 to book your places. 

Visit our new pop-up shop in Manchester city centre! Promoting the 3Rs of waste reduction, reuse and recyling, we are selling goodies and local arts and crafts with a 'Made in Manchester' theme.  Find us at Brazennose House West, Brazennose St, M2 5AS. Opening hours are usually 12-5pm Wed-Sat but are subject to change. Please contact office@emergemanchester.co.uk for more info.

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