What is a circular economy?
There are multiple definitions provided by organisations that encompass what the circular economy stands for.
According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation, one of the leading names in the circular economy space, define the circular economy as “based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.”
Most of the world currently operates in a linear economy, where things are made, used and then disposed of. The circular economy works differently, it's about keeping products in use for as long as possible and getting the maximum value out of them. When their life is up as many materials as possible are recovered and regenerated keeping everything moving in a circular motion. The below infographic by Zeroxplastic explains it perfectly.
Why do we need a circular economy?
You might be thinking, ‘what’s the big deal, I’m sure everyone is taking steps to recycle’. Unfortunately, so many of the products we buy everyday contain single use plastic or carry a recycling image but are not in fact recyclable by our local councils.
Currently, only 9% of the world is circular, which means that 91% of the products produced are not being recycled or repurposed properly.
Let that sink in for a moment.
It’s not just individuals who need to make a change to their consumption, but organisations can collectively play a huge role as well.
We’ve compiled a list of 7 firms who are currently setting an example in the circular economy space that you can draw inspiration from. We think they are all truly awesome!
Vacavaliente SRL: Using recycled leather
Vacavaliente SRL is an Argentine lifestyle brand that produces a range of products including work planners, desk accessories, home accents and travel accessories.
‘What makes them different to the rest in the industry?’ we hear you say. Well Vacavaliente SRL use 100% recycled leather to make some of their products.
The leather manufacturing industry is one of the biggest contributors to waste globally. The tanning process used in creating leather doesn’t only lead to the killing of millions of animals, but also results in chromium being dumped into water bodies. Not to mention all the hair, fat and meat that goes into trash after the completion of the tanning process.
Encouraging the use of recycled leather, not only saves cows, crocodiles and kangaroos from being killed, but also helps preserve the water bodies and ensures a more sustainable future.
We’re rooting for you Vacavaliente SRL!
Bellroy: Bags and accessories made from re-used plastic bottles
Bellroy is an accessories brand that specialises in making bags, wallets and other fashion accessories. Being a certified B Corp, they have a strong focus on sustainability. The company has an entire range of products, from backpacks to toiletry bags that are all made from recycled plastic bottles.
By the end of 2021, Bellroy has an aim of saving 7 million plastic bottles from going into landfills. The brand is a perfect example of companies going that one step further in adopting sustainable practices, however big or small. More of this please!
Patagonia: Worn wear program
It’s very rare to find companies that go out of their way to encourage the repair and reuse of their products, especially in the case of fashion, where clothes are discarded at a meteoric pace.
Through the worn wear programme, Patagonia provides a repair service for its customers helping to extend the life of all their products. They also offer clothes recycling and reselling through a dedicated marketplace.
In fact, the folks at Patagonia are so concerned about their carbon footprint, that they released a Black Friday Ad in 2011 requesting people to not buy their jacket (no we’re not kidding) if they don’t need it.
This is a message that is so powerful, especially during this fashion era where fast fashion couldn’t be more extreme. We love that Patagonia are championing this as a fashion brand themselves and more should certainly follow!
Aeropowder: Rethinking waste feathers
One of the most innovative circular-based start-ups out there, Aeropowder is a London based start-up that collects waste feathers and turns them into products used in packaging.
Currently, the most common material used for making packaging is expanded polystyrene (EPS), which, although is 100% recyclable, still ends up as waste product due to the low economic value of recycling it. The main components of EPS, Styrene and Benzene, contain carcinogens and neurotoxins that are hazardous to most lifeforms. When disposed of in water bodies, EPS causes a serious threat to marine life.
By using waste feathers to create sustainable forms of packaging, Aeropowder is not only reducing the quantity of EPS ending up in wastelands and water bodies, but also repurposing thousands of tonnes of feathers that are treated as a waste product.
What an awesome idea from the guys at Aeropowder, from one start-up to another we totally respect the work you are doing!
AbInBev: ‘Canvas’ nutrition drink
Apart from being on track to achieve its goal of using 100% returnable packaging by 2025, the drinks and brewing giant AbInBev, which owns brands such as Budweiser, Corona and Stella Artois, are pioneering a healthy drink that is made from leftover grains used in brewing processes.
Usually, the leftover grains are either used to feed cattle, or they’re dumped in landfills, causing huge amounts of waste to pile up.
The research team at the firm realised that the grains were high in fibre and could be used to make healthy drinks for human consumption. Currently, they are running a pilot programme for the drink in the US.
What a great use this would be of what is currently waste product!
Library Of Things: Making borrowing better than buying
There are multiple items that we require on a one time or less-frequent basis, that we end up purchasing due to lack of rental options. These can include drills, garden shears, even a GoPro camera. The Library Of Things (LoT) allows you to rent lots of these items on a daily or weekly basis meaning you don’t have to buy them. Allowing you to get the job done at less than 10% of the cost you would pay if you had to purchased the items yourself. Not only is this more affordable and convinent, it is also much kinder to the planet.
Having used LoT, borrowers are 60% more likely to repair or recycle items.This shows how LoT is not only building a business based on a circular economy, but is spreading the message far and wide to cosumers who are reinforcing the importance of a circular economy and environment.
One of the key distinguishing factors of LoT is that they organise workshops on how to use the rental equipment for hire on their website, so hopefully no more DIY disasters.
buyfair.global: The worlds first circular B2B marketplace
The circular B2B marketplace for premium superstock, buyfair.global helps business buyers across multiple industries source beautiful products from premium sellers around the globe. Currently, there is more than 8 trillion dollars worth of overstock (or as we like to call it, superstock) sitting in warehouses globally. The majority of this product only exists because the original minimum order quantities for production had to be so high that product was simply over produced. Most brands are aware it will never all sell due to how short the selling seasons are but to get a low cost per unit, these order quantities have to be met.
All this perfect beautiful product is sitting in warehouses yet brands must prioritise the creating of new stock for new seasons so, this superstock gets neglected. Brands are often given no choice but to sell it at less than cost to clearance stores which can be very damaging for their brands image and for the value the stock holds. In the worst cases but unfortunately quite commonly, product gets destroyed which is devastating in terms of the resources wasted and the impact this has on the planet.
buyfair is a marketplace for sellers to showcase their superstock to our network of business buyers and retain more value in it than allowing it to go to landfill.
The marketplace provides our buyers with beautiful premium branded products they can source for their business weather that’s to curate the perfect stock for their shop or to kit out their new office space.
Not only does this provide superior economic value to both buyers and sellers but helps save the environment by repurposing these products and keeping them in motion while contributing to the circular economy.
So, there you have it. 7 amazing companies who are all doing their bit to contribute to a more circular economy. We hope this has not only provided you with some inspiration for how you can live more circular but has given you a broader insight as to what exactly this new circular economy looks like.