The circular economy model is one that sustainability experts believe is the key to a healthier environment. The idea is simple: in a circular economy system, materials and resources are reused to their utmost extent and disposed of in a zero waste manner. In this way, resources (especially non-renewable ones) are preserved, waste is limited, and there’s less of a need for extraction of raw materials.
As the idea of a circular economy is embraced by impactful entities and governments (the EU is currently moving toward a circular economy, and the UN is similarly pushing for circularity), it’s becoming more and more important for companies to move toward circularity in their business models, too. Not only is it the right thing for the environment, but it’s also imperative for business. If trends are to be believed, future regulations will likely require circularity, and if companies want to continue to see success, they should adopt circular practices now before regulations require them.
But, circularity and sustainable business models aren’t straightforward. Furthermore, the idea is relatively new, and business strategists often need to get creative in order to achieve true circularity in their businesses. Luckily, there are a few pioneers that we can look to as examples. Here are some ways companies are successfully implementing circularity in their business models.
Reuse is one of the cornerstones of circularity. One of the best ways to ensure that materials are used to their utmost extent is to reuse them as much as you can. Reusing materials can be relatively simple when it’s done internally. The challenge is in encouraging your customers and/or clients to reuse the materials or to send them back so that your company can reuse them.
Some companies have found success in creating programs to collect and reuse old products through incentivization.
H&M, a global clothing store, partnered with I:CO* to collect and recycle old textiles. The fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters. This is because textiles require a large environmental footprint to produce, from cultivation of raw materials to shipping products across the world. Additionally, seasonal fashion means that clothing is often worn for only a few months before it’s replaced with a new wardrobe. H&M seeks to minimize their environmental footprint by encouraging customers to bring in their old clothing in exchange for vouchers. H&M will then give the clothing to I:CO* who sorts the clothing and either sells it secondhand, recycles it, or reuses the textile, depending on the wear and tear on the garment.
The food industry also sees a lot of waste. Perishable food is thrown away when it goes bad, and grocery stores often discard produce that’s displeasing to the eye but otherwise edible. This leads to literally tons of food waste every year. Luckily, companies are coming up with solutions.
The Dutch company Protix raises black soldier fly larvae. These insects are an excellent source of protein for a number of animals, like fish, chickens, and pets. They also thrive on decomposing food waste. Because of this, Protix will take food waste in order to quickly cultivate the larvae and turn it into pet and animal food. This way, they are using food that would have been thrown away while cultivating a pet protein that requires little to raise.
A French supermarket was able to reduce their food waste and increase profits by repurposing ugly produce into other products, like juice. Often, when grocery stores receive a produce delivery, they’ll have certain items that are completely edible, but they aren’t pretty. Most grocery stores will throw them away, believing them to be unsellable. Intermarché decided to use the produce in other products rather than throwing them away. Additionally, they offered some of the ugly fruit and veggies to their customers at a discount. As a result, within two days of their new program, 1.2 million tons of ugly fruit and veggies that would have been thrown away were purchased and used by customers.
Implementing circularity in product design
Many circularity models implemented today are reactionary to current linear practices. We are in a transition from linear economy models to circular economy models, and because of this, many strategies are focused on solving current problems rather than product innovation. As we move toward global circularity, we need to start implementing circularity in every aspect, including product design.
Adidas sought to address plastic waste and linear waste issues in the fashion industry with their high performance running shoe, FUTURECRAFT.LOOP. The shoe itself is made completely from reclaimed marine plastic materials abandoned on beaches and in vulnerable areas. But, being remade from plastic materials isn’t the only circular aspect of this shoe. It’s also made to be remade. Once the shoe has been used to its fullest extent, wearers are encouraged to give the shoe back to Adidas where it is washed, ground, and melted into material that can be remade as a brand new high performance shoe. In this way, Adidas truly exemplifies what it means to be circular.
Take your first steps toward circularity with plastic credits through TONTOTON
The thing about implementing circular business models is that they must be individualized to the industry and the company. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution; a successful strategy will require creativity, innovation, and research. This will take many years.
This doesn’t mean that your company can’t take immediate steps toward sustainability while you strategize. There are many ways that your company can work to reduce your environmental footprint now while adopting long term sustainability standards for the future. One of those ways is through plastic credits.
When you purchase plastic credits, it means that an equal amount of plastic waste that your company produces is removed from the environment. This is not a long term sustainability solution. Rather, it slows the amount of plastic waste that’s being abandoned in the environment while the world community develops ways to better address the plastic waste issue.
While TONTOTON is focused on reducing plastic waste, we’re equally concerned about the communities in which we work. When you purchase plastic credits through TONTOTON, you’ll be funding projects that not only remove plastic waste that’s about to become marine waste, but you’re also helping to empower local communities. We provide training, personal protective equipment, and access to healthcare to the waste pickers and community members who collect plastic waste for us. Furthermore, we’ve monetized a type of plastic waste that has never been monetized before—low-value, post-consumer, non-recyclable plastic—providing an additional income source to waste pickers and families. Because of our work, communities have enjoyed a cleaner environment and further sources of income, creating a better quality of life overall.
Interested in taking your first steps toward circularity? Contact us today!