What you can do to support the Circular Economy
Living in a world where we only adopt a 'take-make-waste' mindset is no longer sustainable. It's time to take action, not only for businesses and organisations alike, but for society too.
When we talk about the ‘take-make-waste’ economy, we’re talking about our current approach to resources.This model is the basis of the linear economy, in which raw materials are collected, transformed into products, only to be used briefly, and then thrown away. Take-make-waste.
Why is a Linear Economy so unsustainable?
In a linear economy, waste is the end point of a product's life-cycle. Because of this, all kinds of waste are now threatening our ecosystems: plastic waste, textile waste, food waste, electronic waste, construction waste; just to name a few.
Before items even reach us, supply chains are already produing enormous amounts of greenhouse gases such as carbon and methane. In fact, the extraction and processing of raw materials currently account for a full half of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Water and land are also impacted throughout this process, leading to high rates of habitat and biodiversity loss. All in all, we are already consuming 75% more resources than the earth can sustain in the long term.
The Circular Economy in detail by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
We’re making change happen now
Waste and pollution aren’t unavoidable accidents, they’re the direct result of the way we design things. In fact,80% of the environmental impact of all products occurs at the design stage.
We’ve created a set of Circular Design Principles for all our packaging solutions, so our business activities and operations are already naturally circular. We recycle used paper, turn that into packaging and then collect used corrugated packaging to start the loop again. And we can do all that in as little as 14 days.
One of our real focal points is eliminating single use plastics, our designers have already created sustainable, fibre-based alternatives that will take 1 billion pieces of plastic off supermarket shelves by 2025.
Last year also saw the launch of our Now and Next Sustainability Strategy, a programme designed to tackle some of the biggest sustainability challenges facing society today. One target in particular focuses on closing the loop through better design, which demonstrates our commitment to training all of our designers on circular design principles and ensuring we manufacture 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2023.
Why it's important to support the Circular Economy
Although single-use plastic has become a particular target of media attention in recent years, the Circular Economy can help us tackle a long list of not only environmental challenges, but sociological and economical too. From cutting air pollution to reducing e-commerce packaging waste, to generating new greener industries, applying a circular way of thinking to our daily lives will give us all a chance to turn things around.
Change one thing at a time
If we switch over to the Circular Economy we’ll create a more sustainable society for now and for future generations. We know sometimes, when you look at the scale of the problem, it’s easy to think there is nothing you can do to make a difference. But it’s just the opposite and we can all play our part by making just one change today.
Here’s just 12 things, big and small, you could do to support the Circular Economy:
1. Recycle better, not just more: In 2018, UK councils sent over 500,000 tonnes of recycling to landfill because it was ‘contaminated’. That usually means it wasn’t separated properly before being put out for collection. Check your local authority guidelines to see what goes in which recycling box. Then it can be recycled and turned into something useful again.
2. Help cut CO2: At DS Smith we’re committed to reducing our CO2 emissions by 30% by 2030. But you don’t have to be a big business to make a difference. 40% of UK emissions come from households2 so why not switch your energy supplier to one providing renewable energy or install a smart meter to monitor how much energy you use?
3. Choose your household appliances carefully: Washing machines, fridges and dishwashers stress the environment throughout their whole lifecycle. ‘PolyCE’ brings together companies that act more sustainably along the entire supply chain. Check if your next new appliance comes from a manufacturer that’s a PolyCE member.
4. Turn the tap off: Saving water helps conserve energy and reduce carbon pollution. Just by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth morning and night saves up to 8 gallons of water a day.
5. Leave the car at home: 13% of all global resource consumption is related to transport and mobility.3 DS Smith is cutting fuel consumption (and emissions) by taking 250,000 lorries off the road by 2025. Do your bit by walking or cycling for shorter journeys or taking the train or a car share for your commute.
6. Drive electric: Air pollution in cities has increased dramatically in recent years. Electric cars don’t produce any of the particulate matter or fumes which lead to polluted and dangerous air. The sale of new conventional diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK within 9 years, so now is the time to invest into a sustainable alternative to get you from A to B.
7. Recycle food waste: Food waste contains valuable nutrients that can be used instead of harmful synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. If your council collects food waste, put yours out. And if not, start your own compost heap.
8. Pass on plastics: Of all the plastic produced since the 1950s only 9% has been recycled. Our designers are already helping supermarkets like Morrisons find sustainable alternatives for single-use plastics – look out for them. Or shop with your own containers: many towns now have specialist shops and a growing number of supermarket chains are offering products this way.
9. Protect our forests: 100% of our packaging is made from fibre that’s recycled or from sustainable sources. Within two years our Packaging division will be making 100% recyclable or reusable packaging. Make sure the packaging on the products you buy is the same.
10. Plant a tree: Trees help to combat climate change and absorb pollutant gases (as well as reducing stress and improving our mental wellbeing.) We’re supporting tree planting initiatives all over Europe, close to our mills.
11. Take your own cup: In the UK alone 7.5 million disposable coffee cups are sent to landfill or burn every day. Take your own cup to the coffee shop. Or tell your favourite coffee shop about our unique recycling scheme.
12. Pass it on: By 2025 we’ll have educated 100% of our people worldwide on the Circular Economy and we’re even going into schools with lesson plans. Tell your family, friends and neighbours why the Circular Economy is so important and what you’re doing to support it.
We have power in our actions and choices
The circular economy needs the involvement of everyone, on all levels. As policies change, systems are redesigned and schemes are introduced, we can support these changes and help them thrive. We all have a part to play.
1Eurostat 2 Committee on Climate Change 3Ellen MacArthur Foundation