Every year humans extract 60 billion tonnes of raw materials from the earth, a level of demand 5 times higher than in 1960. While some of this makes long-lasting infrastructure such as buildings or roads, many modern consumer products are designed to be thrown away, often after a single-use, or quickly replaced with a newer model.
This “make, use, dispose” approach simply can’t carry on – we will run out of some materials, and there will increasingly be nowhere to put the waste.
This is where the idea of the Circular Economy comes in. A Circular Economy reduces waste by adding functions such as reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling to the end of a product’s life cycle, rather than the traditional, linear product life cycle where consumers are expected to dispose of products that are no longer of use.
Some practical strategies that businesses are using to create a more circular economy:
- Using renewable materials where possible
- Building longer lasting and easier to repair products
- Implementing re-use and repair services
- Recovering and reusing products and parts in remanufacturing
- Recycling certain materials for use in new products
Businesses have started using these strategies to create a loop where they can get more output from resources, increasing efficiency and reducing variable costs. Consumers also benefit from the longer product life cycles and having the producers take responsibility for waste.
We can all contribute by supporting businesses and ventures that apply circular principles, and here are a few classic UK brands doing just that.
Eat Sleep Live use reclaimed wood from old UK buildings to handmake furniture in Nottingham. Using reclaimed wood not only reduces waste, but it also prevents the need for brand new wood. Eat Sleep Live believe in crafting long-lasting furniture and their reclaimed wood creates furniture with unique character.
Teksha uses a material made from recycled plastic bottles to knit their range of clothing and the yarn they use is Global Recycle Standard certified. Once you are finished with your Teksha clothing you can send the item back and they will recycle it for you. Old recycled Teksha products are then used to create new yarns, which in turn are used to knit new Teksha products. This is a great example of a circular clothing economy in practice.
Jaw Brew is a family-run micro-brewery in Glasgow and sustainability and circular waste management are key to their business. They have partnered with a local bakery and use bread rolls, that would have otherwise been wasted, to craft their beer. They also repurpose their waste, with spent grains going to a local farm to feed cattle. This circular waste approach ensures that they keep their environmental impact low during the production of their craft beers.
Splosh has created a range of ethical home cleaning and essential products. After you have run out of a Splosh product, instead of disposing of the bottle you keep it and they can send you a refill. The refill pouches themselves are returned and upcycled into new products. Splosh’s circular product cycle drastically reduces waste, and as long as you “keep & repeat” this process you do not need to buy an endless supply of plastic products.
Head to YouK to browse more Ethical & Sustainable brands.
Credits: The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, The Circular Economy in Detail.