Circular economy and sustainability

Circular economy is a popular phrase in sustainability circles, but what does a circular economy mean and how can we make it work for our businesses?

What does circular economy mean?

According to the Ellen McArthur Foundation, a circular economy is a move away from a linear economy where we extract materials from the planet, use them or make them into products, and then throw them away. 

The three principles of a circular economy are to

  • Eliminate waste, 
  • Circulate products and materials and 
  • Regenerate nature. 

Restoring our natural resources underpins the whole ethos. By using renewable energy, and reusing resources, we can stop economic growth from having an impact on the environment and slow down climate change. 

Circular economy examples

We are familiar with the phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ which characterises our use of physical products. We’re encouraged to buy less, use items for longer, reuse or repurpose what we already have and recycle what we can’t. 

Ava Innes was started in response to the excess waste produced by the cashmere industry and the wasteful culture of fast fashion. They use this waste to make their luxury cashmere bedding products and the products are designed to last. Ava Innes were finalists for the Blue Patch 2021 Circular Economy Award.

British Recycled Plastic refuses to believe that waste plastic is all bad. They recycle it into useful outdoor furniture like benches, bridges, boardwalks, bollards and more. The products are hard-wearing and low maintenance making them ideal for heavy traffic public spaces. 100% of the plastic they use is recycled. 

Reduce, reuse and recycle is only one half of the equation. We also need to make the best use of biological materials, such as turning farm waste into biogas, extracting chemicals for farm feed, restoring nature and farming responsibly. 

Bio Collectors collect food waste in London and use it to produce biogas and electricity. Their anaerobic digestion plant can process 100,000 tonnes of waste annually.  They were the winners of our Blue Patch Circular Economy award in 2019 for their innovative approach to food waste management.

Kind2 went out of their way to choose paper packaging for their range that was compostable as well as recyclable. They wanted to be sure that no trace remained after their solid shampoo and conditioner bars were used. They sourced a UK manufacturer who uses carbon balanced paper, which means they contribute to rainforest reforestation and preservation too. 

Benefits of a circular economy

If we are to make the circular economy system work, we all need to look at our contribution. We need to reduce the drain on our natural resources. We need to eliminate waste whenever possible. We need to use and recycle as much as we can. Most importantly, we need to restore nature. 

It is important for our future and our children’s future on this planet. By reducing our impact on natural resources, by using less or reusing more, by recycling and maintaining more, we can all contribute to the reduction of landfill waste and the strain on the natural world. 

Join our membership to find out more about how your company can take part in the circular economy or visit our directory to find companies that are making a difference. 

Annette Clubley

Annette is a keen wildlife conservationist, mindful of sustainability and our impact on the environment. Outside of work, family is her focus and she loves teaching the next generation to enjoy the outdoors.