How the Circular Economy Turns Waste into Resources
Sustainability How do we adapt for a future without the ever-present swirling whirlpool of waste around us? Learn what a circular economy is, and how it can help.
According to some estimates, nearly four million tonnes of plastic are used each year in Canada, yet less than 12% of that is collected for recycling. Much of what is collected, however, isn't recycled. And it's not just plastics — virtually every industry is tied to the traditional linear economy, whose model is to make, use, and dispose. Many Canadians are justly concerned, but how do we adapt and get ourselves out of the swirling whirlpool of waste? The answer is the circular economy.
Today's waste, tomorrow's economic driver
The circular economy promises a more environmentally and economically-sustainable future by getting the greatest possible value from resources. Operating in a closed loop, the circular economy keeps resources in use as long as possible, and then regenerates products and materials at the end of their useful life. By designing waste out of our system, we can protect the environment and create new, innovative business models that fuel jobs and opportunities we never thought possible.
The circular economy promises a more environmentally and economically sustainable future by getting the greatest possible value from resources.
As a sophisticated, modern nation, Canada has an opportunity to be an early and successful actor in building a sustainable, zero-waste circular economy. But there is a pressing need to have a coordinated, trusting, and innovative approach among policymakers, businesses, and the research and scientific communities. It's not about recycling more, but rather undergoing a system-wide transformation in the way we design, produce, and use products. To accomplish this, we will need to combine the commitment, resources, and ideas we need to invest in best-in-class research. We will need to discover groundbreaking science and encourage broad engagement across silos and create dialogue between partners.
Embracing a new way of doing business
This is where the recently established Circular Economy Leadership Coalition (CELC), a not-for-profit alliance of leaders in the business, academic, and non-governmental sectors, comes in. The organization provides bold thinking on how to take a systems change approach and how to bring innovation to a national scale. This will help accelerate profitable, zero-waste solutions that will ensure Canada rises as a leader in the quickly-emerging global circular economy.
While the circular economy may be a new concept for some, many Canadian companies across various industries have already embraced the model and are turning what traditionally was considered waste into products with value. The CELC notes that there are more than 200 facilities processing and recycling plastics, some of which are using new, emerging plastics chemical recycling technologies that have recently been commercialized or are on the verge of being commercialized. Canadian businesses are also taking approaches such as producing plastics from renewable sources without harming biodiversity, developing markets for secondhand products, and finding ways for products to last as long as possible.
There is an economic and environmental impetus for us to support scaling the reaches of this innovation so we can have a thriving circular economy in Canada.