The term circular economy is the current in vogue term within the environmental sector, but what exactly is meant by it?
Our industrial economy is generally based on a linear model, where our consumption follows a ‘take, make and dispose’ pattern. However, this wastes resources and exposes companies to risks of resource availability and price instability. A circular economy, in contrast, is restorative and minimises waste, maximising the value we extract from our products and minimising the loss of resources from the system. This is achieved by designing out waste at the initial stages of product development, producing products that are easily disassembled and reused or recycled and by shifting towards the use of renewable energy. WRAP has some simple animations to describe the shift here.
This might not sound like anything new –we have been hearing about and implementing environmental design principles and closed loop systems for many years; however, as time passes the benefits of a circular economy increase. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation has conducted significant research in this area and has placed a material cost saving opportunity of adopting this approach in Europe of between $340bn and $630bn per annum by 2025. More information on their work can be found here.
The renewed emphasis on these principles and the rising use of the term is therefore a great platform to unlock the economy opportunity this offers to business. At Valpak we are thinking about how our role within the packaging supply chain already promotes circular models through recycling, but that there must be more opportunities to drive this through the PRN system – what about ‘circular PRNs’ from closed loop packaging recycling? What benefit should brand owners get for producing packaging that is made for recycling after its initial use?