How can a circular approach to business improve our bottom line and help our planet at the same time?
The world's economy has long been based on a linear 'take - make - dispose' mentality. However, with our planet's diminishing resources at crisis point, business models that promote recycling, reuse, disassembly and remanufacturing are gaining momentum - bringing with them the prospect of a new 'circular' economy.
Leading the way is Austria - a world leader in recycling bio-waste in Europe. Collection and reuse of 'waste' is costly and labour intensive, but through taxation changes and re-marketing rather than scrapping parts, as a nation, they have fostered a strong circular economy approach to waste management that has also saved them millions in on-selling.
Taking a digital approach to the circular economy is REEP, a digital paper system that tackles the environmental footprint of single use paper in offices and in homes. It works like a standard printing system, except the REEP system automatically scans, archives and saves the document to the Cloud and then, using a laser based device, removes all ink (including anything handwritten) and completely erases the page - so you're left with a fresh piece of paper, ready to be reused again.
Closer to home, Seljak Brand, the brain child of two sisters, are manufacturing Australian wool blankets made purely from off-cuts from the factory floor. Not only are the blankets made purely from 'waste’ materials, but after the blankets have enjoyed a long and full life, they're collected again, free of charge to be shredded and recycled in the mill to make yarn for future blankets.
The business case for a circular economy is compelling. Based on analysis by McKinsey, shifting towards a circular economy could add $1 trillion to the global economy by 2025 and create 100,000 new jobs within the next five years.
But what will this mean for today's businesses? Can we expect to see new ways of intelligent re-marketing and re-purposing of products? Could the emerging 'share' economy continue to foster ways of reducing single waste items, and digitalisation knock out more resource-heavy manufacturing? Will our linear, business as usual approach be phased out by future legislation and policy?