Thursday, 1 August 2013

Recycling the Unrecyclable and the Circular Economy

By now we should all be recycling- in 21st century society there really is little excuse for not putting things in the right bin. But do we actually recycle everything that can be recycled? We all come across things that don't quite belong in any of our recycling bins, but at the same time it doesn't quite seem right throwing them out in the garbage.

Fear not. We're taking baby steps towards a 'circular economy' and this is all just part of the process. Gradually, more and more things will become widely recyclable as the life of manufactured products become sustainable closed loops. Manufacture, use, recycle, remanufacture. That's the future.

Taken from ESA's Circular Economy report (see below)

Increasingly, the business world is playing a part in this process, taking things previously difficult to recycle or unrecyclable and reforming them into new products. Blogger Sophia Evans has found a few examples for us (thanks Sophia!):

- Increasingly, you can find recycled precious metals in the jewellery industry. Various companies now recycle old silver, platinum and gold products into new ones. Metals are refined and remixed into alloys before being casted into new designs. These recycling efforts reduce the harmful environmental effects and inhumane labour practices of much of the world’s precious metal mining industries. Precious metals can be repeatedly recycled without losing quality, making them a naturally sustainable resource.

- The Nike corporation has been recycling old sports shoes into playground surfaces for communities since 1990. They've ground up approximately 28 million shoes and 36,000 tons of scrap material and, with it, covered as much surface area as the entire island of Manhattan.

- Notice how you can't recycle bottle caps in your home recycling bins? This type of plastic is still recyclable. Personal care corporation Aveda now produces 100% post-consumer PET packaging for its products. Its Recycled Caps programme, which has been running since 2008, collects bottle caps from all sorts of products, sorts them, melts them down into pellets and turns them into new bottle caps for products.

- Did you know you could recycle makeup? After one or two years, makeup and cosmetics items lose their freshness and effectiveness and should be discarded. Expired, yet usable, items such as half-used lipstick or cracked eye shadow pots can be recycled at a number of places. Origins stores accept empty cosmetics containers, including jars, bottles, compacts and tubes, for recycling.

If you would like to learn more about the concept of a circular economy in the UK, this report from the Environmental Services Association is a great resource. As the report states, the waste and resources industry is central in the move towards a circular economy. This is where organisations like EMERGE come in. We take businesses' end of use materials and help return them back to the economy efficiently and ethically. Find out more about our business services here

EMERGE provides environmental education and advice on resource management, waste composition and sustainable procurement issues. We are now working in partnership with Cooler to deliver ‘Carbon Literacy’ trainings for businesses across Greater Manchester. 
This is a relevant, informative and practical training – you will return to your desk/vehicle/role knowing what your personal carbon footprint is and with actions you can do to reduce it. For more info see or speak to Liz Lauder on 0161 223 8200 to book your places. 

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