You may have heard the term circular economy used a lot recently, but what does it mean? And how does it help us tackle climate change?

A circular economy, in a nutshell

A circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear “take-make-dispose” model of production and consumption. It aims to maximize resource efficiency, minimise waste generation, and promote sustainable practices throughout the entire lifecycle of products and materials. Materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible through strategies like recycling, reusing, repairing and repurposing. This new approach requires a comprehensive overhaul of the current system, in which only 16% of our plastic waste is recycled.

How does a circular economy impact climate change?

The circular economy will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the strain on natural resources. By extending the lifespan of products (through durable design, repair and re-use), recycling materials, and using renewable energy sources, carbon emissions associated with production and disposal can be drastically reduced. And it promotes the use of sustainable materials and encourages businesses to design products with durability, recyclability, and repairability in mind. This approach reduces the need for virgin resource extraction, preserving ecosystems and reducing environmental degradation.

We need to change the way businesses operate

No longer will businesses create a product and then wash their hands of it once it’s sold. Imagine a world where a manufacturer retains the ownership and responsibility for their products for their entire lifespan. The items are leased, rented, or shared rather than individually owned. This shift incentivises manufacturers to create longer-lasting and easily repairable products.

The good news is that Co-op is already in the circular economy! By allowing our customers to re-fill their containers, we reduce all the raw materials and energy that would have been used to create individual packaging. Some of our products are supplied in containers that are returned and refilled by the suppliers, which has an even greater impact. And we are able to recycle pretty much all the packaging that we can’t avoid.

How we can participate?

We as consumers play a crucial role in driving the transition. Here’s some key ways where we can make a difference:

  • Choose businesses like the Co-op that prioritise sustainability and offer lifetime warranties, repairs and recycling services
  • Invest in durable goods that are built to last
  • Look for second-hand options
  • Repair when you can and recycle when you can’t

If we create the demand for these goods and services, the market will provide!

Summing up

A circular economy is a game-changer in the fight against climate change. It’s all about stopping the flow of waste, preserving resources, and slashing greenhouse gas emissions. We need governments, businesses, and all of us to get on board. If we do adopt it, we will create a more resilient world where future generations will flourish.