As the world changes we need to rethink our linear economy and understand why a circular economy makes much more sense.
A circular economy is one that understands that the way we currently produce and consume within our societies and communities is outdated, wasteful and ultimately no longer sustainable. We have moved a long way from the first Industrial Revolution, when the invention of the steam engine in 1684 kickstarted an era of rapid growth and manufacturing. We are not living in a world of unlimited natural resources, and we can no longer continue to live in denial as to the impact of a linear economy on the planet and our future lifestyles.
Currently our linear economy is fueled by cheap manufacturing and online shopping, which has allowed us to entrench this system of - produce, consume, dispose. Attempts to push recycling and the reusing of products has got us so far, but we are going to have to make a greater commitment to a circular economy and really address our waste issues if we are to commit to greater sustainability at any level. Currently, for every second that passes, the equivalent of a rubbish truck filled with textiles is burnt or dumped in a landfill. We need to address the lifecycle of everything that we produce, and understand better how it will be used and for how long, and how to reuse, recycle or repurpose it. Our throw-away culture is not sustainable.
A commitment to a circular economy requires investment (of time, money and thought) from private businesses, local businesses, governments (at a country, city and local neighbourhood level) and from all of us as individuals as well. This involves a long hard look at how we manufacture products, the materials used to make them, and what we do with these products and the materials that they are produced from once we no longer have a use for them. This doesn't have to have a detrimental impact on economies, but it will require a commitment to change, innovation and rethinking the current linear approach to goods manufacturing that exists.
Innovative Approaches Drive a Circular Economy
We explore some of the ways manufacturers and companies can drive a circular economy.
Resortecs: Dissolvable Stitching.
Dissolvable stitching makes it much easier to recycle garments and clothes. These need to be taken apart before the materials used to produce them can be separated for recycling. This is a time consuming and often expensive process needed to remove what is usually polyester stitching. Resortecs dissolvable stitching is dissolvable in a variety of melting points and can be dissolved using a commercial oven. This makes separating garments for recycling a faster and easier process, meaning it is more likely to happen, and more discarded clothes are likely to end up being recycled.
Image from Resortecs.
ThredUp: Reusing Clothing
ThredUp have created one of the largest online platforms for the reselling of women's and kids' clothes. This prevents clothes ending up in landfills and is a true example of a circular economy - rather than being dumped as waste, products find new homes and lives. They continue to circulate. Anyone can send thredUp used clothes, the company then performs quality inspection and a price analytics, and then lists them on their online platform. They currently list and sell clothing from over 35,000 brands at affordable prices. Their approach takes the popularity of online shopping, currently one of the biggest contributors to our make, use and dump economy, and turns it on its head into something that is sustainable.
Image by Gani Pinero.
Apeel: Edible Coating
This plant-based edible coating can be applied to fresh fruit and vegetables. It aims to stop fruits and vegetables from spoiling too soon, and extends their shelf life. Its primary goal is to prevent food wastage, a defining feature of a linear economy, and to increase the time the fruits and vegetables have to ripen before being harvested. It is also being promoted as an alternative to unnecessary plastic packaging of fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is also means fruits and vegetables taste better too, as they are not picked too early. Set up in 2012 with a $100K grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Apeel produce is now available in several categories including avocados, organic apples, cucumbers, lemons/limes, oranges and mandarins, and available at major retailers throughout the US, Denmark, The Netherlands and Germany.
Image from Apeel.
There are many potential innovative approaches to developing a more circular, and thus more sustainable, economy even within some of the largest economies in the world.
At Vonder we believe co-living is the key to a more sustainable approach to living. Hand in hand with mixed-use developments, we believe co-living to be leading the change for more sustainable cities.