Are circular economy models feasible for mainstream?

A recently published article by The BBC titled ‘Clothes should float in and out of our lives‘ queries whether a mainstream move to circular economy models of business would aid in recovering from the pandemic.

Will circular models ever become mainstream?

“Yes, absolutely!” is our optimistic answer.

In the recent past, sustainable and ethical models of business have become firmly rooted into mainstream culture. We feel that circular economy models are next.

All slower business models are just that – slow.

It takes time to build a knowledge base and put new methods into practice. Most firms are risk averse, and shy away from being leaders in this area, which means that that the innovators take on greater risk than in the mainstream.

At Blue Patch we believe that circularity will become more mainstream as consumers make more of an effort to shop sustainably and to take an interest in how their products are made. 

As this happens, firms will feel the pressure to implement and achieve more sustainable business models.

Issues around logistics, suppliers, costs and opportunities will always exist. However, as it becomes critical that a business implement circularity in order for growth, we believe that they will choose to.

a row of four stools on metal legs with wooden seats, set against a slate tiles bar, with a chalk board with the drinks menu on and some glasses.
Revive Innovation’s range of bespoke bar stools. Each one contains 120 CDS saved from landfill.

Circularity has become bespoke

Not all firms are perfectly circular in their own operations. Some source waste from other products/industries and turn them into beautiful brand-new products.

For example, design startup Revive Innovations recovers CDs that would otherwise end up in a landfill and uses them to make furniture and jewellery.

At present, smaller, newer and more technologically advanced businesses come in to replace older, more outdated and clunkier models.

Waste from large-scale manufacturing could become a source of interest to innovative businesses who use it in new circular products. A good example of this is Blue Patch’s 2020 Circular Economy Award winners UpCircle Beauty who up-cycle leftover natural ingredients, bringing them back to life as quality beauty products.

Another example is Whitecroft Lighting who launched of one of world’s first recessed luminaires Cradle to Cradle Certified™ at the Bronze level. They also developed Whitecroft Vitality, a new circular approach that gives them the ability to keep products at their highest utility through life and then refurbish, re-purpose, re-distribute, re-sell and in the end recover luminaires.

view of a table top with a box and tube of face toner, oranges and limes, a pot of oil and dried flowers
Up-cycled beauty products by Upcircle Beauty

How feasible is it to be fully circular?

The circular economy, when functioning correctly is a beautiful and well-oiled machine. However, at present, there are significant barriers that keep small businesses from implementing circular economy principles.

Cost is the biggest issue

Small businesses do not have unlimited budgets. The cost-benefit of money spent will need careful consideration. Survival in the short term is important to thrive in the long term.

Availability of opportunities and resources

Small businesses simply do not have access to the opportunities or resources that big businesses do, as well as the connections/network/insider knowledge to know what options are available to them. Add to that the fact that knowledge of and research into a new field takes time, and small businesses end up at a definite disadvantage.

Time is always of the essence

In order to create a real circular economy time is critical, especially when many businesses are trying to simply stay afloat.

So moving to a more circular model is often not prioritised.

However, we are seeing many small businesses sacrifice profit and time by putting their circular agenda at the top of their value ladder. 4160 Tuesdays, an artisan perfumery based in London has achieved circularity through refilling their perfume bottles for which they spent a whole year researching reusable spray heads. 

Suspended, long, flat light fitting for a sports hall in white.
Flight Sport Vitality, suspended. Whitecroft Lighting.

In a perfect world, circularity would be a beautiful thing and we would love to see more businesses work towards it.

Do you think that circular business models are feasible for mainstream? Please let us know on twitter!