Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

February 12, 2021 by  
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Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition James Woolven Fri, 02/12/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared on Circulate News . Measuring financial results, customer retention, productivity and inventory are all commonplace, but these measurements alone are no longer enough to tell a business whether it will stand the test of time. To be successful, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses need to consider their social and environmental impact — or else be caught out by changing legislation or left behind by customers. What once simply could be written off as a “negative externality” has financial implications and has to be central to business strategies. This means changing the way businesses see their role in society and, ultimately, transforming the economy. Our current economic model is based on extraction and waste. It is linear — we take materials from the planet, make products from them and eventually throw them away. This take-make-waste economic model fundamentally cannot work long term. It relies on the extraction and eventual disposal of finite materials and — to satisfy an ever-growing demand for resources — encroachment into natural ecosystems, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and staggering biodiversity loss. Alternatively, an economic system based on the recirculation of resources and the regeneration of natural systems offers a way forward that can work in the long term. This model, known as the circular economy, could help tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. The circular economy is underpinned by three principles, each driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; and regenerate natural systems. Circular economy is gathering momentum and is being embraced across the public and private sectors around the world. For example, more than 50 global leaders, including CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies, policymakers, philanthropists, academics and other influential individuals, signed a joint statement in June calling for a transition to a circular economy in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In the plastics sector, more than 1,000 organizations have united behind, and are working towards, a common vision of a circular economy for plastics . As organizations begin to make strides in their efforts to transition away from a linear way of doing business and to implement real-world changes, clear and comparable metrics will be valuable for assessing their success and planning future actions. It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. Jarkko Havas, insights and analysis lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, explains: “Implementing changes can only be effective when we have a clear vision of a future state, an understanding of where we are now and a view of how quickly we are moving between the two states. Measuring progress and tracking changes is an essential factor in the transition to a circular economy.” Measuring the circular economy transition for businesses To understand whether business activity is achieving the aims of a circular economy, business leaders need access to data that measures the circular economy performance of their business, alongside the more commonplace metrics used for assessing the business. However, measuring circular economy performance is a relatively new area and this can lead to misinterpretation of circular economy, with the outcome being well-intentioned incremental tweaks to linear systems, rather than the adoption of truly circular business models. The concept of a circular economy, and what it means for businesses, has been interpreted in many ways. As a result, standardization of the concepts behind circular economy and their inclusion into broader non-financial reporting standards are areas of ongoing work. Measuring circular economy performance also requires data on areas of a business that haven’t traditionally been measured, such as the circularity of water flows or physical assets. Havas adds: “It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. On an organizational level, we also need to ensure that the circular economy is a part of strategy, risk assessment and organizational targets, to name a few.” In order to measure circular economy performance, it is important to take stock of the concrete results of a company’s efforts to transition to a circular economy — to create a snapshot of the company’s current circularity, in terms of material flows and business models. However, it is also important to look at things that enable the transition to happen, such as senior leadership buy-in and necessary infrastructure. This gives an insight into companies’ circular economy potential. As more businesses have employed circular economy models, a number of initiatives have been developed to measure circular economy performance. This includes the Circular Transition Indicators by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circulytics tool, of which version 2.0 recently has been launched. Broader reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, also have started to embed concepts of the circular economy. Anna Krotova, senior manager for standards at the Global Reporting Initiative, says: “Since its last revision in 2016, we have updated the GRI Waste Standard to reflect the continued transition to the circular economy. This update will help thousands of GRI reporters look beyond operational waste, towards understanding how their activities, products and services cause or relate to waste impacts, and where in the value chain they are exposed to risk. Consequently, this will enable organizations to identify circularity opportunities and demonstrate to their stakeholders — such as communities, customers, investors and governments — how they are adopting a holistic and progressive approach to waste and resources management.” Circular economy measurement is also an ongoing area of work for Europe’s new Circular Economy Action Plan. The action plan calls for improved metrics to monitor the progress towards circularity. This monitoring should cover the interlinkages between circularity, climate neutrality and the zero-pollution ambition. The Bellagio process is an initiative taken by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the European Environment Agency to respond to this need. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. Peder Jensen, expert, circular economy and resource efficiency, at the European Environment Agency, says: “Circularity is an idea as old as nature itself. So it is really the linear model that is the ‘odd one out.’ Only by transitioning to a circular model can we ever establish a real model for sustainable development. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. “The Bellagio principles are a set of guidelines on how to monitor the transition to a circular economy. The principles focus on capturing both the narrow material flow related aspects (circular material use) and the broader aspects linked to the environment and social implication. In this way, it pays tribute to the broadly accepted concept of sustainability and sustainable development.” Havas adds: “At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we are working on measurement on many fronts: We continue to develop our company-level circular economy measurement tool Circulytics together with our network of companies; work with circular economy measurement standardization as a liaison to the ISO technical committee on circular economy; with non-financial reporting standards efforts; and with public sector actors especially in the EU. Our food initiative has also developed a city self-assessment tool for cities to understand solutions to achieve a circular economy of foods. Our aim is to act as an impartial organization on these different levels of measuring the circular economy, and to bring consistency across them.” Benefits of circular economy measurement Having access to metrics assessing the circular economy performance of a company can have a series of benefits, both for the individual companies themselves and for the overall transition to a circular economy. Establishing the extent of a company’s circular economy performance can be a motivating force to drive faster, fuller adoption of the circular economy. It can empower strategic decision making, helping companies fully realize circular economy opportunities and can help to drive continued progress. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. If made publicly available, data on the circular economy performance of companies also can help accelerate the wider transition to a circular economy by giving the financial world a metric on which to base investment decisions. Given that the circular economy is a complex and many-faceted system, making decisions on whether a company is “circular” can be complicated for investors without clear, consistent and comparable metrics. Intesa Sanpaolo was an organization involved in the joint statement calling for a circular economy transition. The bank’s global head of circular economy, Massimiano Tellini, says: “The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. The change of cultural paradigm generates both a benefit for our customers, in terms of increased competitiveness, and an opportunity for us in terms of advisory and business origination. The renewed awareness of the urgency of this change determined by the pandemic and the opportunity offered by the Next Generation EU plan are key elements for a redefinition of the development model on an international scale investing in innovation and training. “These aspects stimulate a dialogue based on the sharing of approach and information assets combined with the impact capacity of each player in favor of the transition, with the natural consequence of involving more and more actors in a common path to accelerate the transformation.” Pull Quote It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. Topics Circular Economy Data Ellen MacArthur Foundation Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Freedomz  on Shutterstock.

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Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

February 12, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Comments Off on Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition James Woolven Fri, 02/12/2021 – 01:00 This article originally appeared on Circulate News . Measuring financial results, customer retention, productivity and inventory are all commonplace, but these measurements alone are no longer enough to tell a business whether it will stand the test of time. To be successful, it is becoming increasingly clear that businesses need to consider their social and environmental impact — or else be caught out by changing legislation or left behind by customers. What once simply could be written off as a “negative externality” has financial implications and has to be central to business strategies. This means changing the way businesses see their role in society and, ultimately, transforming the economy. Our current economic model is based on extraction and waste. It is linear — we take materials from the planet, make products from them and eventually throw them away. This take-make-waste economic model fundamentally cannot work long term. It relies on the extraction and eventual disposal of finite materials and — to satisfy an ever-growing demand for resources — encroachment into natural ecosystems, resulting in greenhouse gas emissions and staggering biodiversity loss. Alternatively, an economic system based on the recirculation of resources and the regeneration of natural systems offers a way forward that can work in the long term. This model, known as the circular economy, could help tackle the world’s biggest challenges, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution. The circular economy is underpinned by three principles, each driven by design: eliminate waste and pollution; keep products and materials in use; and regenerate natural systems. Circular economy is gathering momentum and is being embraced across the public and private sectors around the world. For example, more than 50 global leaders, including CEOs of some of the world’s largest companies, policymakers, philanthropists, academics and other influential individuals, signed a joint statement in June calling for a transition to a circular economy in response to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In the plastics sector, more than 1,000 organizations have united behind, and are working towards, a common vision of a circular economy for plastics . As organizations begin to make strides in their efforts to transition away from a linear way of doing business and to implement real-world changes, clear and comparable metrics will be valuable for assessing their success and planning future actions. It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. Jarkko Havas, insights and analysis lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, explains: “Implementing changes can only be effective when we have a clear vision of a future state, an understanding of where we are now and a view of how quickly we are moving between the two states. Measuring progress and tracking changes is an essential factor in the transition to a circular economy.” Measuring the circular economy transition for businesses To understand whether business activity is achieving the aims of a circular economy, business leaders need access to data that measures the circular economy performance of their business, alongside the more commonplace metrics used for assessing the business. However, measuring circular economy performance is a relatively new area and this can lead to misinterpretation of circular economy, with the outcome being well-intentioned incremental tweaks to linear systems, rather than the adoption of truly circular business models. The concept of a circular economy, and what it means for businesses, has been interpreted in many ways. As a result, standardization of the concepts behind circular economy and their inclusion into broader non-financial reporting standards are areas of ongoing work. Measuring circular economy performance also requires data on areas of a business that haven’t traditionally been measured, such as the circularity of water flows or physical assets. Havas adds: “It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. On an organizational level, we also need to ensure that the circular economy is a part of strategy, risk assessment and organizational targets, to name a few.” In order to measure circular economy performance, it is important to take stock of the concrete results of a company’s efforts to transition to a circular economy — to create a snapshot of the company’s current circularity, in terms of material flows and business models. However, it is also important to look at things that enable the transition to happen, such as senior leadership buy-in and necessary infrastructure. This gives an insight into companies’ circular economy potential. As more businesses have employed circular economy models, a number of initiatives have been developed to measure circular economy performance. This includes the Circular Transition Indicators by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circulytics tool, of which version 2.0 recently has been launched. Broader reporting frameworks, such as the Global Reporting Initiative, also have started to embed concepts of the circular economy. Anna Krotova, senior manager for standards at the Global Reporting Initiative, says: “Since its last revision in 2016, we have updated the GRI Waste Standard to reflect the continued transition to the circular economy. This update will help thousands of GRI reporters look beyond operational waste, towards understanding how their activities, products and services cause or relate to waste impacts, and where in the value chain they are exposed to risk. Consequently, this will enable organizations to identify circularity opportunities and demonstrate to their stakeholders — such as communities, customers, investors and governments — how they are adopting a holistic and progressive approach to waste and resources management.” Circular economy measurement is also an ongoing area of work for Europe’s new Circular Economy Action Plan. The action plan calls for improved metrics to monitor the progress towards circularity. This monitoring should cover the interlinkages between circularity, climate neutrality and the zero-pollution ambition. The Bellagio process is an initiative taken by the Italian Institute for Environmental Protection and Research and the European Environment Agency to respond to this need. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. Peder Jensen, expert, circular economy and resource efficiency, at the European Environment Agency, says: “Circularity is an idea as old as nature itself. So it is really the linear model that is the ‘odd one out.’ Only by transitioning to a circular model can we ever establish a real model for sustainable development. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. “The Bellagio principles are a set of guidelines on how to monitor the transition to a circular economy. The principles focus on capturing both the narrow material flow related aspects (circular material use) and the broader aspects linked to the environment and social implication. In this way, it pays tribute to the broadly accepted concept of sustainability and sustainable development.” Havas adds: “At the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, we are working on measurement on many fronts: We continue to develop our company-level circular economy measurement tool Circulytics together with our network of companies; work with circular economy measurement standardization as a liaison to the ISO technical committee on circular economy; with non-financial reporting standards efforts; and with public sector actors especially in the EU. Our food initiative has also developed a city self-assessment tool for cities to understand solutions to achieve a circular economy of foods. Our aim is to act as an impartial organization on these different levels of measuring the circular economy, and to bring consistency across them.” Benefits of circular economy measurement Having access to metrics assessing the circular economy performance of a company can have a series of benefits, both for the individual companies themselves and for the overall transition to a circular economy. Establishing the extent of a company’s circular economy performance can be a motivating force to drive faster, fuller adoption of the circular economy. It can empower strategic decision making, helping companies fully realize circular economy opportunities and can help to drive continued progress. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. If made publicly available, data on the circular economy performance of companies also can help accelerate the wider transition to a circular economy by giving the financial world a metric on which to base investment decisions. Given that the circular economy is a complex and many-faceted system, making decisions on whether a company is “circular” can be complicated for investors without clear, consistent and comparable metrics. Intesa Sanpaolo was an organization involved in the joint statement calling for a circular economy transition. The bank’s global head of circular economy, Massimiano Tellini, says: “The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. The change of cultural paradigm generates both a benefit for our customers, in terms of increased competitiveness, and an opportunity for us in terms of advisory and business origination. The renewed awareness of the urgency of this change determined by the pandemic and the opportunity offered by the Next Generation EU plan are key elements for a redefinition of the development model on an international scale investing in innovation and training. “These aspects stimulate a dialogue based on the sharing of approach and information assets combined with the impact capacity of each player in favor of the transition, with the natural consequence of involving more and more actors in a common path to accelerate the transformation.” Pull Quote It is vital that we understand how to achieve a circular economy beyond the recirculation of materials. Upstream solutions such as product and service design are essential to eliminate waste before it happens. We therefore need to focus our attention on more than just the flow of materials, and include also environmental and social aspects. The circular sustainable life should be a good life. The systemic transition to a circular economy creates value and opens up opportunities for collaboration with a view to open innovation. Topics Circular Economy Data Ellen MacArthur Foundation Waste Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by  Freedomz  on Shutterstock.

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Why data and measurement are key to a circular economy transition

Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

January 28, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals Scott Breen Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:15 Numerous companies have set 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging goals such as Colgate-Palmolive and Kellogg. Virtually all these companies, though, are not tracking whether their packaging is actually recycled and what new products their packaging becomes. Without this end-of-life tracking, they cannot determine the extent of the economic and environmental impact from how their packaging was recycled. Technical recyclability is only the first step of many questions to determine if your packaging works in today’s recycling system. Other questions include: Is the packaging collected in the vast majority of recycling programs? Can the packaging be easily separated from the rest of the single stream recyclables? Once baled with like materials, does the material the packaging was made of sell for an amount that pays for the cost to collect and separate it and, ideally, provide additional needed revenue to the material recovery facilities (MRF) that separate single stream recyclables? Is the packaging downcycled into a product unlikely to be recycled at its end-of-life?  These questions are harder to answer. Further, some companies may not want to look under the recycling hood. They might fear uncovering negative characteristics for a packaging type that they want to continue using because they’ve invested in it, it provides higher margins than other packaging, or consumers find it attractive. If companies are serious about fixing the U.S. recycling system, they need to go beyond a new willingness to fee-setting and long-term recyclability goals . They need to consider what inputs they are pumping into the recycling system. Material flows One way to answer some of the above questions is to use material flow analyses (MFA). MFAs show visually how materials flow through the waste management system. They make it easier to identify where material is being lost and whether there is downcycling or ” real recycling .” While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. Metabolic’s ” Recycling Unpacked: Assessing the Circular Potential of Beverage Containers in the U.S. ” has a beverage container MFA. One can see that a third of PET is lost during the mechanical recycling process and 40 percent of the glass material collected from single-stream recycling systems is used as landfill cover. The MFA also shows the best performer. It is aluminum cans with 82 percent of used beverage cans entering the U.S. recycling system able to be recovered for high-quality closed-loop recycling into another can, which easily can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Closed Loop Partners (CLP) also has conducted a detailed MFA for a variety of plastic resins. While the whopping 82 percent of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. End uses vary by resin. One of the top end-uses noted in the MFA is synthetic fiber, which typically is used for clothing. Most new clothing , regardless of if it is made with recycled material, will go to landfill unless nascent solutions are scaled. One extra revolution is far from true circularity. Also consider plastic polyethylene (PE) film in CLP’s MFA. The only PE film that is recycled is the small percent that goes to retail store drop-off and commercial direct bales. So, PE film is technically recyclable . Thus, some companies may count it towards their 100 percent recyclable goal, but it is far from being truly recycled in today’s system. It may be difficult for a company to do an MFA of just its products. Still, companies should look to MFAs of material types and packaging generally to get a sense of if there is ” real recycling ” with their packaging. Revenue source or cost for recyclers The more than 350 residential MRFs in the U.S. are struggling with incessant contamination and often pay more to separate recyclables than they earn selling them.  Companies should consider whether the packaging they put into the marketplace will help recyclers on the back end with added revenue. The consistent, relatively high revenue sources for MRFs are certain kinds of paper ( cardboard ), aluminum beverage cans and certain kinds of plastic ( HDPE ). In fact, one recent study by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton determined that without the revenue from used beverage cans, most MRFs wouldn’t be able to operate . Typically low or even negative value materials for MRFs include glass , mixed paper and cartons .  They also should consider if the material is easy to separate and bale to sell for the needed revenue. For example, steel cans are easy to remove from the rest of the single stream recyclables via a magnet . Artificial Intelligence , robotics and optical scanners help address materials being missorted . Nonetheless, many MRFs do not have this kind of technology, nor the capital to purchase it . Environmental impact of recycling In addition to the economic impact of recycling, companies should consider the environmental impact that comes with how their packaging is recycled. The amount of energy saved from making a product with recycled material versus virgin material differs. With plastic and glass, it’s about a third . In contrast, aluminum cans and steel cans save 90 percent and 75 percent , respectively. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Recycled content goals are certainly a step in the right direction toward building up domestic recycling markets and achieving the above environmental impact with greater displacement of virgin material. However, companies still should consider whether the materials in their packaging can loop numerous times. Plastic can be recycled only two or three times . Alternatively, glass and metal can recycle many more times as there is no loss in quality when they are recycled. When multiple loops from the same piece of material are considered , the environmental and economic impacts stack up . Packaging choice is critical to recycling system health The key to a thriving recycling system is either investing in the technology and infrastructure necessary such that all recyclable materials can be economically and efficiently recycled at scale or having more consumer goods companies choose packaging that recycles economically and efficiently in the current system. Neither is happening right now. Too much packaging dumped into the marketplace does not work in today’s recycling system. It’s worthless, multi-material, hard to separate and/or not easy to recycle into anything useful/recyclable. No wonder there are now calls for the chasing arrows symbol to be taken off all plastic packaging, and Greenpeace is suing Walmart for misleading recyclability labels on its plastic products and packaging. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Companies need to go beyond technically “recyclable” in the sustainability metrics they use to choose their packaging . Potential alternative metrics include some percent of all the company’s packaging is above a certain value per ton, some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily made of material that does not degrade during the recycling process and some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily recycled into the same kind of packaging or other useful, easy to recycle products. There’s an opportunity for a company to be the first mover in next level recycling metrics and packaging choice. Once many companies make the shift, the recycling system will thrive and the economic and environmental impact from recycling will multiply. Pull Quote While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Recycling Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash .

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

January 28, 2021 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green, Recycle

Comments Off on Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals Scott Breen Thu, 01/28/2021 – 01:15 Numerous companies have set 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging goals such as Colgate-Palmolive and Kellogg. Virtually all these companies, though, are not tracking whether their packaging is actually recycled and what new products their packaging becomes. Without this end-of-life tracking, they cannot determine the extent of the economic and environmental impact from how their packaging was recycled. Technical recyclability is only the first step of many questions to determine if your packaging works in today’s recycling system. Other questions include: Is the packaging collected in the vast majority of recycling programs? Can the packaging be easily separated from the rest of the single stream recyclables? Once baled with like materials, does the material the packaging was made of sell for an amount that pays for the cost to collect and separate it and, ideally, provide additional needed revenue to the material recovery facilities (MRF) that separate single stream recyclables? Is the packaging downcycled into a product unlikely to be recycled at its end-of-life?  These questions are harder to answer. Further, some companies may not want to look under the recycling hood. They might fear uncovering negative characteristics for a packaging type that they want to continue using because they’ve invested in it, it provides higher margins than other packaging, or consumers find it attractive. If companies are serious about fixing the U.S. recycling system, they need to go beyond a new willingness to fee-setting and long-term recyclability goals . They need to consider what inputs they are pumping into the recycling system. Material flows One way to answer some of the above questions is to use material flow analyses (MFA). MFAs show visually how materials flow through the waste management system. They make it easier to identify where material is being lost and whether there is downcycling or ” real recycling .” While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. Metabolic’s ” Recycling Unpacked: Assessing the Circular Potential of Beverage Containers in the U.S. ” has a beverage container MFA. One can see that a third of PET is lost during the mechanical recycling process and 40 percent of the glass material collected from single-stream recycling systems is used as landfill cover. The MFA also shows the best performer. It is aluminum cans with 82 percent of used beverage cans entering the U.S. recycling system able to be recovered for high-quality closed-loop recycling into another can, which easily can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Closed Loop Partners (CLP) also has conducted a detailed MFA for a variety of plastic resins. While the whopping 82 percent of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. End uses vary by resin. One of the top end-uses noted in the MFA is synthetic fiber, which typically is used for clothing. Most new clothing , regardless of if it is made with recycled material, will go to landfill unless nascent solutions are scaled. One extra revolution is far from true circularity. Also consider plastic polyethylene (PE) film in CLP’s MFA. The only PE film that is recycled is the small percent that goes to retail store drop-off and commercial direct bales. So, PE film is technically recyclable . Thus, some companies may count it towards their 100 percent recyclable goal, but it is far from being truly recycled in today’s system. It may be difficult for a company to do an MFA of just its products. Still, companies should look to MFAs of material types and packaging generally to get a sense of if there is ” real recycling ” with their packaging. Revenue source or cost for recyclers The more than 350 residential MRFs in the U.S. are struggling with incessant contamination and often pay more to separate recyclables than they earn selling them.  Companies should consider whether the packaging they put into the marketplace will help recyclers on the back end with added revenue. The consistent, relatively high revenue sources for MRFs are certain kinds of paper ( cardboard ), aluminum beverage cans and certain kinds of plastic ( HDPE ). In fact, one recent study by Gershman, Brickner & Bratton determined that without the revenue from used beverage cans, most MRFs wouldn’t be able to operate . Typically low or even negative value materials for MRFs include glass , mixed paper and cartons .  They also should consider if the material is easy to separate and bale to sell for the needed revenue. For example, steel cans are easy to remove from the rest of the single stream recyclables via a magnet . Artificial Intelligence , robotics and optical scanners help address materials being missorted . Nonetheless, many MRFs do not have this kind of technology, nor the capital to purchase it . Environmental impact of recycling In addition to the economic impact of recycling, companies should consider the environmental impact that comes with how their packaging is recycled. The amount of energy saved from making a product with recycled material versus virgin material differs. With plastic and glass, it’s about a third . In contrast, aluminum cans and steel cans save 90 percent and 75 percent , respectively. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Recycled content goals are certainly a step in the right direction toward building up domestic recycling markets and achieving the above environmental impact with greater displacement of virgin material. However, companies still should consider whether the materials in their packaging can loop numerous times. Plastic can be recycled only two or three times . Alternatively, glass and metal can recycle many more times as there is no loss in quality when they are recycled. When multiple loops from the same piece of material are considered , the environmental and economic impacts stack up . Packaging choice is critical to recycling system health The key to a thriving recycling system is either investing in the technology and infrastructure necessary such that all recyclable materials can be economically and efficiently recycled at scale or having more consumer goods companies choose packaging that recycles economically and efficiently in the current system. Neither is happening right now. Too much packaging dumped into the marketplace does not work in today’s recycling system. It’s worthless, multi-material, hard to separate and/or not easy to recycle into anything useful/recyclable. No wonder there are now calls for the chasing arrows symbol to be taken off all plastic packaging, and Greenpeace is suing Walmart for misleading recyclability labels on its plastic products and packaging. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Companies need to go beyond technically “recyclable” in the sustainability metrics they use to choose their packaging . Potential alternative metrics include some percent of all the company’s packaging is above a certain value per ton, some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily made of material that does not degrade during the recycling process and some percent of all the company’s packaging is primarily recycled into the same kind of packaging or other useful, easy to recycle products. There’s an opportunity for a company to be the first mover in next level recycling metrics and packaging choice. Once many companies make the shift, the recycling system will thrive and the economic and environmental impact from recycling will multiply. Pull Quote While the whopping 82% of plastic going to landfill is jarring, it is important to look at the end-products that this MFA identifies and what percent actually gets recycled once entering the recycling system. A company making sure all its packaging is technically recyclable does little to address this problem of too much packaging that the U.S. recycling system cannot process economically and efficiently. Topics Design & Packaging Circular Economy Recycling Packaging Circular Packaging Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash .

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Moving beyond 100% recyclable goals

CRA reveals the worlds first compostable marker

December 28, 2020 by  
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Design and innovation practice Carlo Ratti Associati (CRA) recently unveiled what it claims to be the world’s first fully compostable marker. Scribit Pen cartridges are made of natural fibers and contain non-toxic, water-based ink. Scribit Pen aims to help address the issue of plastic pollution , so each component making up this compostable marker is completely eco-friendly. In addition to its natural fiber cartridges, the main barrel of the marker is made of biodegradable plastic, and the non-toxic ink is so safe, you could eat it. The design was inspired by CRA’s eponymous drawing robot (named one of the best inventions of 2019 by Time magazine) that uses markers to draw visual content on vertical surfaces. Related: Green Box — a hotel amenity kit made of compostable plastic “We are proud of Scribit’s success, and how it has empowered thousands of people around the world to change the way they draw,” said Carlo Ratti, who led the Scribit Pen design team. “However we were troubled by the amount of plastic produced by the markers that the robot uses. By developing the new Scribit pen, we can turn one of humankind’s primordial acts — drawing — into a fully sustainable one.” According to the company, the global marker industry sends more than 35 billion plastic markers into landfills each year, an amount that could cover Manhattan over 11 times. The pen barrel can be used indefinitely, as the internal components are replaceable. Buyers will have a choice between wood, bioplastic and anodized aluminum for the barrel material. These important features promote a circular economy, which replaces the “take-make-waste” linear model. CRA has worked on several other sustainable projects in product design and architecture in the past, such as the Italian Pavilion at Dubai Expo 2020 , which uses recycled components like orange peels and coffee grounds for construction materials, and the Circular Garden at Milan Design Week 2019 , which was made from mycelium. The Scribit Pen project is currently under development, but those interested can stay updated by signing up for the newsletter . + Scribit Images via CRA

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Katie Schindall on Cisco’s holistic approach to circular economy

November 20, 2020 by  
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Katie Schindall on Cisco’s holistic approach to circular economy This video is sponsored by Cisco. “By drawing connections across the different pieces of it, we see opportunities that we may not otherwise connect. We have a focus on operations and we work with our supply chain around reducing resource use and waste and we also have a focus on design. By focusing on our suppliers and bringing those ideas of the circular economy into how we work with our suppliers, they come up with ideas that in turn help us to achieve goals that we may have around product and packaging design.” Lauren Phipps, director & senior analyst of circular economy at GreenBiz, interviewed Katie Schindall, director of circular economy at Cisco during the VERGE 20 virtual event (October 26-30, 2020). View archived videos from the conference here: https://bit.ly/3kMjeXt . taylor flores Fri, 11/20/2020 – 08:44 Featured Off

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Katie Schindall on Cisco’s holistic approach to circular economy

Innovative sanitation solution is crowned winner of VERGE Accelerate contest

November 5, 2020 by  
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Innovative sanitation solution is crowned winner of VERGE Accelerate contest Myisha Majumder Thu, 11/05/2020 – 01:00 On the last day of VERGE 20, five startups that won lightning-round pitch sessions during the Food, Carbon, Circular, Energy and Transport conference competed for the vote of the viewers. The overall winner addressed a unique blend of environmental and social concerns. This was the first year of this two-round approach, with 25 entrepreneurs pitching throughout the week in market-specific sessions, culminating in the final VERGE Accelerate round. Presenters were given less than three minutes to make a compelling argument to the audience on why their company and innovation should win this year. The overall winner, change:WATER labs , presented by Diana Yousef, founder and CEO, did just that, after winning the Circular pitch session. Yousef’s pitch began with the stark statistic that half of the world’s population lives without access to a safe, clean toilet, given lack of sewage infrastructure in their area. The common solution thus far has been offline portable toilets, which Yousef claims is an $18 billion-year investment, given the frequency of maintenance. Change:WATER labs’ iThrone creation cuts down on waste logistics by eliminating the waste inside the toilet itself and turning it into pure water. This is done through a membrane that evaporates raw sewage without any energy source and allows for a functional, safe toilet without the need for power or plumbing, Yousef said. Yousef spoke about the first deployment of iThrones in Uganda: “Currently, our first iThrones are servicing the population and providing them with safe and sustainable sanitation. Harvested vapor will provide pure water to the local hospital and dried urine salts will fertilize local agriculture.” An added benefit, Yousef noted, is that iThrone “makes sanitation much more accessible because it’s five times cheaper than comparable toilets. It cuts collection costs in half, and makes collections 20 times more scalable, demonstrating pent-up demand for this type of solution.” This cost-effective and efficient innovation has earned change:WATER labs funding from the Turkish government, the United Nations Development Program and other private-sector contractors, as well as recognition from Bloomberg , The Daily Beast and the Boston Globe . An international soil carbon offset marketplace VERGE Accelerate runner-up ConserWater Technologies, represented by CEO Aadith Moorthy, won the Carbon Pitch session earlier in the week. Moorthy’s compelling narrative began with ConserWater’s impetus five years ago: “I was traveling to a small village in South India, and I saw a funeral procession. That year, a farming family had committed suicide because the monsoon rains had failed. And that got me thinking: Why do farmers have a struggle like this? This is the face of climate change that brought me to conserve water, where we use [artificial intelligence] to help farmers to mitigate climate change at scale.” ConserWater’s software analyzes satellite data and images to help predict actionable insights about the farmland, such as soil moisture, nutrients and carbon levels, without using sensors or hardware. “We’re able to help the farmers grow more with less by optimizing their resource usage and verifiably increasing their soil carbon sequestering,” Moorthy said. The company already has global operations, and Moorthy claims ConserWater is running the world’s largest international soil carbon market, with credits associated with millions of acres of farmland that can be purchased by companies, governments or individuals for offsetting emission. According to ConserWater, farmers can make up to $40 or more per acre through the marketplace. Industry experts break with audience choice Nancy Pfund, managing partner of DBL Partners, and Meera Clark, senior associate of Obvious Ventures, two industry experts who provided feedback on the VERGE Accelerate pitches, gave Food pitch session winner eggXYt their votes. Clark justified her choice given the potential of the business, and like Pfund, saw it as having market appeal. EggXYt uses CRISPR, the gene-editing tool, to detect the genes of chicken eggs through the shell. Co-founder and CEO Yehuda Elram said the technology helps mitigate the billions of dollars that go into incubation and hatching of eggs, only to kill over 4 billion male chicks annually that are not viable for the market. EggXYt is developing what Elram calls “the ultrasound for eggs,” which allows for sex detection of chick embryos immediately after the eggs are laid and before the eggs enter the 21-day incubation process. The non-incubated male eggs can be sent to market. The other two presenters spoke about their company’s interface in the energy and electric grid. Energy pitch session winner Uprise Energy, represented by co-founder and CEO Jonathan Knight, pitched Uprise’s mobile power station. The company has created a portable renewable energy system, which can provide reliable power through the patented 10-kilowatt portable wind turbine. Knight said the portable turbine is designed to fit in a standard shipping container and only takes an hour to set up by one person. Andrew Krulewitz, co-founder and CEO of Flux, winner of the Transport pitch session, spoke about his startup’s potential role in reducing the cost barrier to electric vehicle deployment. Flux’s model offers what is essentially a power purchase agreement for EVs that helps defray the capital expenditure, with plans starting at $99 per month and 10 cents per mile. Topics Innovation VERGE 20 Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off iThrone cuts down on waste logistics by eliminating the waste inside the toilet itself and turning it into pure water. Courtesy of change:WATER Close Authorship

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How to ensure circular fashion is good for people and the environment

October 9, 2020 by  
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How to ensure circular fashion is good for people and the environment Annelise Thim Fri, 10/09/2020 – 00:15 This article originally was published in the BSR Insight . The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the fashion industry into disarray, leaving supply chain workers without wages and causing major global brands to file for bankruptcy. In the United States alone, 2.1 million retail workers lost their jobs due to the crisis. In Bangladesh, the garment sector is expected to lose over a million jobs by December, with over 70,000 workers already laid off. While many underlying issues are not new to the industry, the unprecedented situation has made us acutely aware of the fragilities of our current economic system and of just how vulnerable people — especially workers and their communities — are to significant business disruption. As our society looks to build back better by emerging from the crisis with a more resilient and sustainable system, many industries are planning to integrate circularity into their recovery plans. Indeed, even before the COVID-19 outbreak, circular economic models had been sprouting up at increasing speed in the fashion industry, both to counter its enormous environmental impact and to respond to economic opportunities. The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution . Companies, brands and designers are increasingly looking to circular fashion models, including resale, rental and repair, to mitigate these impacts. A strong signal of the circular fashion opportunity: Resale grew 25 times faster than the overall retail apparel market in 2019. While the potential positive environmental impact of a shift to a circular economy is enormous, few organizations are considering the social implications for the more than 60 million people in its value chain . Given the sheer size of the industry and the many ways people intersect throughout production and consumption, social implications, whether positive or negative, are unavoidable. Women, who comprise between 60 to 90 percent of total apparel workers, of whom an estimated 80 percent are women of color , likely will take the brunt of the impact due to their precarious working conditions and existing gender-based discrimination. BSR’s new brief, ” Taking a People-Centered Approach to a Circular Fashion Economy ,” explores the potential social impacts that may emerge from a mainstream shift to circular fashion . The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. Informed by BSR’s research and stakeholder engagement supported by Laudes Foundation , an independent foundation tackling the dual crises of climate change and inequality, the brief proposes opportunities for businesses, policymakers and advisers to design circular fashion business models to be inclusive and fair from the outset. In addition, we provide a set of guiding questions for companies and organizations to practically think through the social impacts of their shifts to circular fashion models, aiming to avoid and mitigate negative social impacts and more consciously target positive social impacts. “The vision of ‘circular economy’ presents an economy that is compatible with nature, but we cannot take for granted that it will be inclusive,” said Megan McGill, senior program manager at Laudes Foundation. “BSR’s work is enabling us to ensure that in our pursuit for a regenerative and restorative economy, we are actively managing and promoting the rights and equity of people touched by the fashion sector.” This current period of complex disruption presents a unique opportunity to leverage the shift to circularity to address some of the global fashion industry’s persistent and pervasive environmental and social issues. By taking a people-centered approach, we can build a more resilient industry and respond to the calls from stakeholders — through safer inputs that increase the health and safety of workers and production communities, enabling creative and dignified employment, and building inclusive models adapted to the needs of a diverse consumer base. Supported by Laudes Foundation, BSR is continuing to explore the impacts of the shift to circular fashion on job opportunities and quality — a topic largely ignored in the circular transition to date and which we begin to delve into in this brief. Our current work aims to explore and develop responses to these impacts in collaboration with fashion companies and broader industry stakeholders. In addition, we will leverage strategic foresight in developing and testing practical recommendations with special focus on the U.S., Europe and India. This brief was developed by Cliodhnagh Conlon and Annelise Thim, with input from Laura Macias and Magali Barraja and with the support of Laudes Foundation. As we delve deeper into this topic, we are keen to hear feedback and learn from others who are working to ensure that the circular fashion transition delivers benefits for people. If you are currently working on circular fashion or would like to learn more about our work, please reach out to connect with the team. Pull Quote The textile industry alone produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year and accounts for around 20 percent of global industrial water pollution. Contributors Cliodhnagh Conlon Topics Circular Economy Supply Chain Fashion Supply Chain Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Garment worker in Bangladesh, where the garment sector is expected to lose over a million jobs by December 2020, with over 70,000 workers already laid off. Photo by Jahangir Alam Onuchcha on Shutterstock.

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UPS is aiming to be better, not bigger

September 18, 2020 by  
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UPS is aiming to be better, not bigger When Carol Tomé joined UPS as the company’s CEO on June 1, 2020, she put a stake in the ground around social justice and equity. “We announced actions to address the racial and social justice challenges facing communities here in the U.S. and around the globe,” said Suzanne Lindsay Walker, chief sustainability officer at UPS, noting an internal equity task force and legislative advocacy. “It’s a huge focus area for us and one that I’m excited to continue and see where we go.” Related to the circular economy, Walker said UPS has an important role to play in enabling it through its own operations and its customers’ circular strategies.  John Davies, vice president and senior analyst at GreenBiz, interviewed Suzanne Lindsay Walker, chief sustainability officer at UPS, during Circularity 20, which took place August 25-27, 2020. View archived videos from the conference here . Deonna Anderson Fri, 09/18/2020 – 15:58 Featured Off

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UPS is aiming to be better, not bigger

Circular Electronics: Creating a Responsible Supply Chain, Part 1

September 16, 2020 by  
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Circular Electronics: Creating a Responsible Supply Chain, Part 1 Can we create a responsible circular supply chain for circular electronics? This more in-depth series of case studies will explore how electronics companies are designing waste out of products and offerings, including easily repairable and modular consumer electronics. This discussion explores deeper nuances of the circular economy approaches to recycling electronics.” Part one of a two-part breakout session: https://youtu.be/c4esivyFbhY Speakers Dan Reid, Senior Environmental Program Manager, Responsible Business Alliance Remco Kouwenhoven, Social Innovation Lead, Fairphone Jordan Tse, Sustainability Program Manager, Facebook Shelley Zimmer, Sustainability Program Manager, HP Holly Secon Wed, 09/16/2020 – 01:10 Featured Off

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