The Opportunities of a Waste-Free Circular Economy
Insight Companies are finding ways to take their unused products and repurpose safely, and with the help of the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition, they plan to grow that incentive.
A generation ago, telephones were hard-wired fixtures meant for two-way calling. Today they’re pocket-sized supercomputers with functions that change how we live, work, and socialize. This level of transformation is similarly required in how we design, produce, use, and reuse almost all products and services as we make the vital shift away from a linear economy that is the source of so much pollution, waste, and unnecessary cost. A generation from now, in its place will be a clean and prosperous circular economy where many of the things we dispose of will be eliminated, treated as valuable resources for producing new materials, or will serve as sources of energy.
This isn’t just wishful thinking, it’s an inevitable transition that’s already underway. To see the circular economy in action, consider Net-Works, a partnership between Interface Inc, a major commercial flooring manufacturer, and the Zoological Society of London. They’re working with coastal communities to collect nets and turn them into carpet tiles. The company cuts costs by using less virgin material, customers get top quality carpets at reduced prices, local entrepreneurs benefit from new income sources, and collectively, everyone in the supply chain participates in protecting marine life and making communities cleaner, healthier, and more resilient.
Other examples are emerging everywhere. Unilever, one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies, is pioneering technologies that will enable it to make plastic bottles entirely from its reclaimed waste, producing a completely closed loop. IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, designs waste out of its products upstream and then extends their life — and introduces a circular business model — by reselling salvaged returns and displays through its “As-Is” section.
Renault is recovering and repurposing its used cars. Nike collects old shoes and turns them into new products. Philips, instead of selling lightbulbs and fixtures is starting to sell light as a service. The Toronto Tool Library lends out specialized tools to its members, saving costs to homeowners while extending the usefulness of infrequently used equipment. The list goes on.
Space for Canadian leadership
Despite these shining examples, most governments and businesses still operate in ways that are wasteful and unsustainable. By embracing innovation and fostering true collaboration across all sectors, industries, and levels of government, Canada can contribute to a global wave of opportunity expected to generate an estimated $4.5 trillion in economic growth by 2030.
That is where the Circular Economy Leadership Coalition comes in. This network of leading businesses and NGOs is driven to make Canada a leader in the global circular economy. By engaging Canada’s best minds, we will help design a vision and roadmap for Canada’s circular economy, with an initial emphasis on eliminating plastic waste in our cities and waterways, lakes, and oceans. We will also work with governments and businesses to re-engineer policies, products, services, and related infrastructure to help lead the way towards that vision.
The stories that follow will shine additional light on the exciting transformation ahead of us. We hope you'll join us in our effort to seize this opportunity.
A number of corporate partners are expected to sign onto the coalition and the current list of confirmed members is as follows:
- Unilever Canada
- IKEA Canada
- Walmart Canada
- Loblaw Companies Ltd.
- NEI Investments LP
- International Institute for Sustainability Development (IISD)
- National Zero Waste Council (NZWC)
- Smart Prosperity Institute (SPI) (and their Smart Prosperity Leaders Initiative)
- The Natural Step Canada (TNS) (and their Circular Economy Lab)
- Institut de l’Environnement, du Développement Durable et de l’Economie Circulaire