What is the circular economy and why is it important?

June 10, 2021

What is the circular economy and why is it important?

The ‘circular economy’ is a phrase you’ll become more and more familiar with in the future. We have become hyper aware of the effects of our throwaway lifestyle and how we are using up the earth’s resources, and two years ago, the UK government declared a Climate Emergency. The need for sustainability has become more mainstream and more is being done by individuals, organisations and governments to clean up our oceans, reduce the use of single-use plastics, and create large-scale tree-planting projects. 

The ultimate aim of the circular economy is to leave no footprint. To reuse, recycle and replenish so nothing is wasted. Sustainability is at the core of JPA’s brand values, so when it comes to office refurbishments, we only use furniture that’s been made with wood sourced from sustainable forests, only using packaging materials that are recyclable and making sure they’re 100% recycled, being carbon neutral, and rehousing or recycling 100% of the office furniture our clients are replacing with new products. This is known as ‘closing the loop of product life cycles’. We are proud to say that we send ZERO waste to landfill and have rehomed over half a million pounds worth of pre-used furniture to communities and charities. 

If you think the circular economy is an expensive way to do business, think again. In total, we’ve managed to save our clients over £1.5m. And that’s without counting the ecological savings our circular model has resulted in. 

What are other companies doing? 

There are many companies adopting the circular economy model because it makes sense both environmentally and economically. And it’s going to be big business. The University of Cambridge’s Circular Economy Centre estimates that, over the next 15 years, the global circular economy will be worth a massive $4.5 trillion. 

In an era when customers are looking for brands that not only care about but also practise sustainability, it’s unsurprising that more and more companies are adopting a business model based on the circular economy. To show what can be done, we’ve been researching other UK companies that have adopted a circular economy-based business model.

Olleco

Olleco is an organic waste recycling company which turns used cooking oil and food waste into fuel, energy and fertiliser. Working with large companies such as McDonald’s and Arla, the company’s work is making a huge impact, and Olleco has just become the first dedicated circular economy company to be granted a Royal Warrant. 

Vegware 

Takeaway food and coffee is quick and convenient, but the packaging usually ends up in landfill or being incinerated. Vegware has solved this problem by making plant-based cups, lids, plates, cutlery, boxes and window bags that are strong and food-safe, but will break down into compost afterwards. That compost can be used to fertilise the ground that will grow the plants that will be made into the next generation of Vegware. 

Rapanui 

While fast fashion still dominates the clothing industry, smaller companies such as Rapanui have fully embraced the concept of circular fashion. Its clothing range is made from organic cotton, and each garment can be sold back to the company at the end of its life, enabling it to be recycled into new garments. T-shirts are printed to order so there’s no waste, and companies of all sizes have the opportunity to produce their own organic clothing range through Rapanui’s sister company Teemill. No wonder it's used by many environmental charities such as the Marine Conservation Society, Friends of the Earth, BirdLife International and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. 

ZigZag

Online retail has understandably become extremely popular, especially over the last year or so, but returns can be problematic. ZigZag uses software to help get the returns to the nearest warehouse via the most efficient route possible, lowering the carbon footprint, halving the cost of the return and enabling the retailer to get items back onto the shelves as quickly as possible. In addition, more and more clothing retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, Zara, H&M and Primark, are adopting ‘take back’ schemes, encouraging customers to donate their second-hand clothing instore, which ZigZag will resell or recycle, keeping 100% of it out of landfill. 

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