The circular economy is a key element in the recycling business, but what is it and how can it play a role in your company? Learn more about circular economy thinking and what role on-site waste management plays.
What is the circular economy?
The rate at which we’re digging up, burning, and abusing the world’s natural resources means that, eventually, we will run out of natural resources. We are consuming far more than can be replaced. The circular economy teaches us to live in a more sustainable world. After all, we only have one planet. We can make a difference in resource recovery by applying alternatives.
What is the definition of the circular economy? It is an alternative to the more traditional linear economy for producers and manufacturers. A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. For Mpact’s products, this means that where they cannot be reused, the products should be collected, recycled and made into new products. It’s good business that’s good for the environment, good for the economy and good for our world.
What are the key elements of a circular economy?
The key elements of a circular economy refer to the direct circular handling of materials. It is the continuous flow of energy from one product to another without breaking the cycle of life thereby reducing demand on natural resources. Recycling closes the loop and extends the life cycle of products and increases the usage opportunity.
What is a linear economy? How can we change this mindset?
One of the most common approaches to today’s economic activities is a linear one. In a linear economy we extract materials, manufacture products, use them once, and then throw them away.
During the manufacturing process of many goods, the dependence on the usage of raw materials is vast. We use massive amounts of energy and water during these manufacturing processes. Very little or no thought has gone into the recovery value of the non-renewable resources in South Africa, and across the globe.
The negative environmental impact of the linear economy is enormous. A wide range of waste that could actually be recycled is finding its way to our landfills at an alarming rate. Embarking on circular economic practices offers businesses and individuals a wide range of alternatives to the traditional “make, use and dispose” methods.
Waste processing should be taken seriously in a society that is realising the effects of waste on the environment. A good first step for a business is to partner with a reputable waste management company to help begin your journey.
Is recycling the same as a circular economy?
There’s a common misconception that recycling and the circular economy are the same thing. But are they? It is time to dispel that myth. Recycling plays a large role in a circular economy but is just one component. Here’s how these concepts differ in some ways:
- The circular economy’s objective is restoring and regenerating through deliberate design.
- The circular approach uses as few resources as possible or uses the resources well. During manufacturing, renewable resources, wherever possible, are used to ensure that maximum value is extracted from them throughout their lifetime.
- In the circular economy, the idea is to design things that can be reused, repurposed, or recycled easily. Other initiatives are applied where they can no longer be used in their current form.
- A circular economy recycles the materials into something else such as new packaging. When the components are eventually degraded and can no longer be reused, they are recycled. We refer to this as a ‘closed loop’.
- In the circular economy, waste ends up going into the recycling stream. Resource efficiency is enhanced, and recovery rates are reduced through the longevity of products with few negative impacts on the environment.
- Products are usually produced through the application of high standards so that they will last more than one life cycle.
- The life cycle of products in the circular economy is extended through repairs, maintenance, redistribution, re-manufacturing, and refurbishment.
- The general idea behind the circular economy is to minimise the waste going to landfills and oceans wherever possible, and rather maximise the amount of waste going into the recycling stream – ultimately, minimising environmental impacts.
- As such, recycling is a critical part of the circular economy.
Is the circular economy realistically possible for South African companies?
Yes, it is possible. Leading companies in Southern Africa are embracing the move towards a circular economy. For example, as the leading paper and plastics recycler in South Africa, the Mpact group gives effect to a true circular economy and hope for future generations. Through state-of-the-art investments in recycling and packaging technologies, Mpact converts pre- and post-consumer recyclable materials into innovative plastic and paper packaging products. This change in thinking is creating additional revenue streams, business models, and creating jobs.
South African companies can re-conceptualise waste input into any product design or restoration process. When applying these principles, materials are used multiple times. The thinking behind this is, instead of being created with a once-off use and disposal life cycle, packaging can be reused and recycled.
Waste prevention is key. With the effective treatment of products, manufacturers are making strides through implementing a circular economy action plan. In addition, companies create job opportunities, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enjoy the benefits of more responsible production practices.
How on-site waste management can contribute to the circular economy
We can all be part of the solution, it’s easier than you think. Your business can start by implementing sound waste management practices, which can be undertaken by a responsible waste management company. Our expert team begins by first conducting a free waste audit. They will then implement a quality recycling programme which is part of the waste management service to sort your waste on your premises. The complete waste management solution presented to your company could very well include other components such as hazardous waste disposal, composting and so on.
The need to find waste management services is more important than ever. The separation of waste will prevent a large volume of unrecyclable waste from entering the waste stream, such as food waste which Mpact Waste Management takes to a composting plant. Recycling is the first step in creating the circular economy model, and a waste management programme ensures recyclables get into the recycling stream sooner rather than later.
In closing, on-site waste management is a more sustainable approach to waste. It’s a viable solution that contributes to the circular economy.
Circular economy actions encourage economic growth. As a responsible society, we can start by transforming recyclables into valuable materials. The circular economy makes goods that are valuable that can ultimately be recycled. By changing the way we view waste with an approach to growth, we can make a difference.