Two circular economy trends that will impact corporate sustainability.
Now that the UN has declared we’re in a decade of action, more corporations than ever before are curating environmental best practices that tap into the circular economy. Defined as a framework that reduces waste and pollution, the circular economy aims to emulate natural renewable systems to create sustainable products, services, and policies.
It takes the basic grade school principles to reduce, reuse, and recycle and scales them to the corporate world. With a definition so broad, the circular economy can be interpreted in many different ways. Here are just two of the biggest corporate trends to put these principles in action.
Trend #1: Diverting F-Waste out of Landfills
Nearly 9 million tons of f-waste (furniture waste) ends up in landfills each year. Some of this includes the used office furniture that gets discarded in the typical corporate migration, revitalization, or closure.
With the help of sustainable office decommission firms, corporations can break out of the typical linear business models and find a new home for used office furniture. A decommission firm taps into the circular economy by facilitating the resale, recycling, or donation of items.
Not only does this reduce how much f-waste a corporation may produce, but it also has a positive impact on the community. Some environmental firms may facilitate an office furniture donation to non-profits in need of equipment, helping them revitalize their space without dipping into their limited budgets.
Take GM Motors, for an example. When they teamed up with a sustainable office decommission service, they were able to divert 99.7% of their office assets from a landfill and donate office furniture to more than 30 local charities.
Trend #2: Reducing Materials and Packaging
In 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency reported 14.5 million tons of plastic containers and packaging was generated. And while many municipalities offer recycling programs, most cannot process packaging materials such as plastic clamshells, plates, or coffee pods. Instead, many of these items end up in landfills or wind up in our oceans.
Eliminating plastic straws is perhaps the most popular campaign to reduce packaging, but it’s not the most extensive change to packaging production. With single-use plastics on the chopping block around the world, corporations are looking for new ways to package their products.
One strategy is to eliminate plastic altogether. Coca-Cola and Calsberg have thrown their hats into the ring by backing Dutch biochemical company Avantium’s new plant-plastic for their drink containers. The containers will use an eco-friendly plastic to strengthen a recyclable layer of cardboard. Dubbed the “Paper Bottle Project”, these bottles will decompose after just one year.
Another strategy is alternative packaging, such as reusable bioplastics. Corporations such as Proctor & Gamble, Mars, and Nestlé are partnering with reusable packaging companies to keep their plastics out of the landfill. This new business model delivers products to customers’ doors at the same time it picks up empty packaging. Used packaging can be cleaned and refilled for the next customer, so it stays out of the landfill.
With just ten years to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, keeping materials in use and out of landfills just makes sense. The circular economy is the natural way to realize this goal. Its own objective is to create zero waste business models. While zero waste may be a far-off goal for some corporations, these two trends will get them on the right track.