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 onsite waste management plays.

What is the Circular Economy?

The rate at which we’re digging up 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. It closes the loop in recycling. By doing so, it extends the life cycle of products and increases the usage opportunity.

The Key Elements of a Linear Economy and How We Can Change This Mindset

One of the most common approaches to today’s economic activities is one that is linear. 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. You can partner with a reputable waste management company to help begin your journey.

Is Recycling the Same as a Circular Economy?

Many think that recycling and the circular economy are the same. But are they? It is time to dispel that myth. Recycling plays a large role in a circular economy, but these concepts differ in some ways. Here’s how:

  1. The circular economy’s objective is restoring and regenerating through deliberate design.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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’.
  5. 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.
  6. Products are usually produced through the application of high standards so that they will last more than one life cycle.
  7. The life cycle of products in the circular economy is extended through repairs, maintenance, redistribution, re-manufacturing and refurbishment.
  8. 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.
  9. As such, recycling is a big 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.

Linear production where raw materials are being used and then disposed of is becoming unsustainable. Large companies and businesses, on the whole, are fast realising that the natural resources used in production are finite. South African companies can apply circular economic principles to any product development process and reap rewards.

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 thought 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 to Apply the Concept of the Circular Economy to Your Company’s Waste Management

We can all be part of the solution. Applying an efficient waste management policy could make a difference. For most people, the circular economy action plan starts with recycling. You can build from this foundational step to focus on restoration and regeneration in your company.

Your product design teams can conceptualise products that are easily recycled and reused. When we can no longer use them in their current form, the materials go into something else. When the material has degraded, it is recycled and turned into new packaging.

How Onsite Waste Management Can Contribute to the Circular Economy

Sound waste management practices undertaken by a responsible recycling company would be a good point of entry. Responsible onsite waste management has a positive environmental impact in South Africa. Start by implementing a quality recycling programme and waste management service to sort your waste on your premises.

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. Recycling is the first step in creating the circular economy model.

We should all take a more sustainable approach to waste. The sustainability of the environment plays a vital role. We should all be sitting up and taking note of the environmental impacts of our actions and how we can change the way we think.

Circular economy actions encourage economic growth. By changing the way we view waste with an approach to growth, we can make a difference. 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.