Examples of the circular economy in action
Our biggest untapped opportunity is to change the way we make, use, and design products to cut our carbon emissions much further and faster.
Alongside the climate and biodiversity benefits of a shift from a linear to a circular economy, businesses around the world are discovering the commercial benefits of circularity.
Though WRAP is already helping to develop a circular economy for plastics there are other examples of circular economy in action:
Sweden’s Return System
The system delivers re-usable crates and pallets to goods producers for use in shipping their products to wholesalers and retailers. The Return System then collects the emptied crates and pallets, before checking them for quality, washing, and repairing (where required), and preparing them for use again.
The Return System adopts an Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) model and ownership is split between the Trade Association for Groceries of Sweden (50%) and the Swedish Food & Drink Retailers Association (50%). Operations of the system first began in 1997 and provide re-usable crates for half of all fresh food deliveries in Sweden. Payment methods implemented for the scheme include a pay-per-use model and a deposit for crates and pallets. The pallets last for around 15 years and, at end-of-life, are recycled to produce new pallets.
Denmark’s Return System
Denmark also runs a similar system but caters to private consumers only. The system applies to most bottles and cans sold in Denmark, with any retailer that sells bottles or cans being required to receive them back from consumers. The consumers pay a deposit for packaging and receive this when they return the item. The return system then collects the packaging with a return rate of 92%.
An Italian-based private company, Ecoplasteam, uses a process to treat polylaminates (PO-LA) to create a new ‘third material’ (EcoAllene), which has multiple uses including construction, furnishings, and non-food packaging. Polylaminates are materials used in food packaging and are difficult to recycle. This is due to being comprised of multiple layers of paper, plastic, and metal (for example, drinks cartons and liquid food packaging), which are strong and liquid-resistant. The process includes recycling all of the layers together - as opposed to separating them to recycle in pure streams - to create a new secondary and recyclable raw material, which is part of the circular economy.
MIWA (Minimum Waste)
MIWA believe that waste-free shopping should be the norm for all consumers. The private company, based in Czech Republic, promote minimising waste and pre-cycling through innovative design, use of technology, and rethinking our lifestyles.
MIWA sells two primary products - food distribution systems and compatible food containers. Retail stores purchase the distribution systems to be used for the storage of products, and then customers can fill the containers with food. The containers are not labelled, to allow for flexibility and freedom of use for any product needed. MIWA uses technology to provide product information, including expiry, origin, and allergens, which can be found on an application via smartphone.
MIWA applies the circular economy principles of a close-loop system by taking responsibility for the products at the end-of-life and recycling them into new applications. The company calculates a 71% reduction in impact of food packaging through the use of this system, when compared to using disposable materials.
Other examples of Sustainable Consumption and Production initiatives are listed in the One Planet Network database.