We throw things away – but there is no “away”.
From linear to circular
What is the connection between an underground farm in London, edible food packaging and a subscription for headphones? They all operate within a circular economy business model. They are all part of the future.
We take, we make, we dispose. This is the straight model of consumption that humanity has created over the past decades; it is called a linear economy. You might already know this – but this model is not sustainable. Economic growth has been at the forefront of most countries’ strategic priorities for years, and long overdue is our focus on the impact this exploitative behaviour has.
We need to use things rather than use them up
Taking resources from the environment, using them and then disposing them into landfills creates a massive imbalance. Every single item that you own originates from nature. Resources such as freshwater, oil, natural gas, phosphorus and coal are processed into billions of products, but nothing is given back or returned to its original state. Nature has continuously provided us with resources so far, but if we continue with this model, we will reach the point where there is nothing left to take; a point that is sooner than most people think. According to WWF, we will need another earth by 2050 to accommodate our current behaviour. The linear economy’s demand has long exceeded what nature can renew.
We cannot continue down this path of a linear economy. At least if we want to continue living on this planet for the next 30 years or more.
The WWF published a report in 2018 that states: “We are the first generation that has a clear picture of the value of nature and our impact on it. We may be the last that can take action to reverse this trend.” So let’s take action!
What if the goods of today could become resources of tomorrow?
What needs to happen? One thing is clear: we need a shift. A shift in economic models, a shift in mindset and a shift in product design. We need to think beyond JUST recycling. Yes, you read correctly. Recycling is good! But it is by far not enough as it only deals with the problem at the end of a product’s life.
This is where the circular economy comes in. Instead of a linear take-make-waste-approach, the circular model ensures that there is no end to the process because everything that can no longer be used is reintroduced into the system as a resource. Thus, a circle of production and utilisation can be created. While this may sound fantastic, and is the future, it is also a lot of work. A circular economy starts at the very beginning of a business model. What materials can be used? How long can they be used for? And how exactly can the goods be taken apart and reused afterwards? These are all vital questions to consider for a circular business model.
Waste and pollution are mainly generated by the way we design things.
Let’s start at the beginning. To fully achieve a circular economy, products need to be designed differently. More importantly, a modular design should be adapted to facilitate repairs and regeneration of parts. Furthermore, packaging must be re-engineered drastically. Think about it, we unwrap our new headphones and never look at the box it came in again. We buy fish and chips, rip open the ketchup sachet and throw it away. When it comes to rethinking design, especially packaging, the time it is actively “used” stands in no correlation with its impact on the ecosystem.
A great example of how to tackle wasteful packaging was introduced by the Skipping Rocks Lab, a London-based startup. The aim of their product ooho is to match the packaging to the shelf life of a product. Inspired by nature, the company developed a membrane-like solution made out of seaweed that biodegrades within 4 to 6 weeks and can be dissolved in water. The perfect solution for the aforementioned ketchup sachet; as well as any other takeaway sauces. Or think about the next marathon in your city and the mountains of cups that can be found on the streets afterwards. What if those drinks could be handed out to athletes in a capsule and consumed without any cup?
There are numerous ways of how products can be redesigned. The key is to challenge the status quo, and ask yourself: Is this really the best way of doing it, or are we doing it that way because it has always been that way?
Another critical aspect of the circular economy is the idea of ownership. It is a concept deeply anchored in our mind that we have to own products. What we can call “ours” has an added psychological value to us. But why? Can’t we be users instead of owners? The answer is: Yes, we can!
Subscription models are the future, and we have already seen a significant shift when it comes to car-sharing, bike subscriptions or clothing rentals. While these models were slow to adoption, they are here to stay.
Technology waste is a major threat to our systems. Each year, 40 million tons of electronics are thrown away – and more often than not, these devices are not even broken (the new iPhone release can be a big enough reason to throw a 2-year old phone away). One company fighting this issue is Gerrard Street in the Netherlands. The founders designed the world’s first circular headphones, and offer them on a subscription basis.
The idea of renting instead of owning might be new to you, but if you really think about it: Do you need a light bulb or do you need light? Do you need to buy a washing machine or maybe just 3000 washes? Do you need to own a car or do you need to get from A to B?
Say Bye to Buying!
Did you know that parents go through an average of 280 pieces of kids clothing in the first 2 years of their child’s life? These 280 pieces are accumulated through gifts and struggle you have to walk past those “adorable little socks” without buying them.
The main problem is: kids grow – clothes don’t (and the same goes for your pregnant belly, by the way). Fashion is the world’s second most polluting industry. It is responsible for 10% of the global greenhouse gas emission due to long supply-chains, energy-intensive production and the trend of fast fashion. Every second, the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is landfilled or burned. This overconsumption jeopardizes our future – our children’s future.
This is why Circos was founded in 2019. We adopt a fully circular business model and provide you with a sustainable alternative to the 280 pieces of clothing that eventually end up in your basement storage. How does Circos work for customers? Easy! You rent kids clothes instead of having to buy them and once your little ones have outgrown them, you just return the clothes and receive a bigger size. Our subscription grows with your children. This will save you time, it will save you money, it saves precious storage space and most importantly, you save the environment and contribute to a better future for your little ones.
Being a member of Circos turns you into a real environmental hero. Only by using our service for one month, you save 6 kilos of CO2, 242 litres of water and 0,3 kilos of cotton. Quick math. This adds up to 72 kilos of saved Co2 per year, 2904 litres of water and 3,6 kilos of cotton. With this amount of water, you could shower about 50 times or you could drink 11628 cups of tea.
So let’s look at how the circular model works for Circos:
Circos partners with brands that have sustainability at their core such as Patagonia, adidas and the own brand Vigga. You select clothes online, and Circos sends them to you. As explained above, packaging is a big part of our impact. Thus, Circos uses bags from Wastebased, a company that produces carbon-negative packaging and wherever possible, Circos further utilises the last green mile for delivering the bundles. Your little ones enjoy the clothing as long as you like the style and as long as they fit.
Afterwards, you reuse the Wastebased packaging to send back the items. Circos professionally cleans them and inspects the quality. If something is broken, it is not thrown away but fixed or taken apart to reuse the material. Once an item has reached its end of life and has brought joy to about 8 or 9 families, Circos partners with companies that create new fabrics out of the old clothes. The remanufactured high-quality baby clothes are then reintroduced to the Circos platform.
A better future for our children
Circularity is undoubtedly the future. Big corporations will sooner or later have to adapt their businesses to a new, more sustainable model to survive.
We, as consumers, have a tremendous power to impact and accelerate this necessary shift of design, the shift of mindset and the shift of how we value things.
You don’t have to be an environmentalist to be part of this movement. All you need is the desire to create a better future for your children. Together, we can shape the economy so that it works for many years to come.
The circular economy is here to stay, let’s make it happen together. And next time you throw something away – think twice about where “away” is.
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