From rented jeans to reused cook­ing oil, busi­nesses are go­ing ‘cir­cu­lar’

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

From re­cy­cled paint to rented jeans, busi­nesses large and small are look­ing at ways to cut waste, use fewer re­sources and help cre­ate what has been coined a “cir­cu­lar econ­omy” in which raw ma­te­ri­als and prod­ucts are re­peat­edly reused.

Unilever, Re­nault, Google and Nike are some of the com­pa­nies start­ing to move to­wards a cir­cu­lar busi­ness model, ex­perts say. Ci­ties too - in­clud­ing Lon­don, Amsterdam and Paris - are look­ing at how they can shift to a cir­cu­lar econ­omy, which means reusing prod­ucts, parts and ma­te­ri­als, pro­duc­ing no waste and pol­lu­tion, and us­ing fewer new re­sources and en­ergy.

Lon­don’s Waste and Re­cy­cling Board last month pub­lished a routemap for how the city as a whole could make the shift, thereby cut­ting emis­sions and cre­at­ing jobs. “As Lon­don grows it faces un­prece­dented pres­sure on its land and its re­sources. If we are to meet these chal­lenges, mov­ing Lon­don to a cir­cu­lar econ­omy will be vi­tal,” Shirley Rodrigues, Lon­don’s deputy mayor for en­vi­ron­ment and en­ergy, told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion.

The city would likely need less land and in­fra­struc­ture to man­age waste, free­ing up space for hous­ing and sav­ing up to 5 bil­lion pounds ($6.5 bil­lion) in in­fra­struc­ture costs. The shift could gen­er­ate 40,000 jobs, in­clud­ing 12,500 new jobs across Lon­don, she said.

It would also cut harm­ful green­house gas emis­sions. “It is widely ac­cepted that the cir­cu­lar econ­omy has the po­ten­tial to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions ... through us­ing less re­sources to make prod­ucts in the first place and re­leas­ing less gases from en­ergy gen­er­a­tion, for ex­am­ple,” Rodrigues said.

“This can also be achieved through us­ing re­sources more ef­fi­ciently by ex­tend­ing the life of prod­ucts and through the shar­ing of goods,” she added.

PwC, which of­fers au­dit, tax and con­sult­ing ser­vices, is go­ing cir­cu­lar, and of­fer­ing ad­vice about this to its clients, who num­ber 26,000 in Bri­tain with more over­seas. The com­pany uses cook­ing fat from its can­teens and other kitchens to fuel its of­fices, it re-uses and re­man­u­fac­tures of­fice fur­ni­ture where pos­si­ble and do­nates the rest to char­ity, and when its com­put­ers and phones need up­grad­ing - a fre­quent oc­cur­rence - they send them to another com­pany which re­sells them.

‘Walk the talk’

Brid­get Jack­son, PwC’s head of cor­po­rate sus­tain­abil­ity, is look­ing at ev­ery­thing from of­fice car­pets to re­cy­cled wall paint to see how to cut the com­pany’s waste and use of re­sources. Even worn out com­pany uni­forms are taken apart and reused.

“There are big cost sav­ings, there’s rep­u­ta­tional ben­e­fits from be­ing re­spon­si­ble, and it is a topic which is of a lot of in­ter­est to our em­ploy­ees,” Jack­son said. “We are of­ten giv­ing ad­vice to clients about how they can make their op­er­a­tions more ef­fi­cient and be more sus­tain­able, and we try to walk the talk,” she said. Some com­pa­nies are look­ing for ways to be­come less re­liant on raw ma­te­ri­als be­cause they fluc­tu­ate in price and be­come harder to source.

That can mean re­cy­cling alu­minium for cars, old train­ers for sports­wear, and oth­ers are look­ing at reusing parts. Many have de­vel­oped ways to lease prod­ucts - in­clud­ing jeans, light­ing and pho­to­copiers - to cus­tomers who re­turn them when they want to up­grade.

Lon­don au­thor­i­ties are hop­ing that ar­chi­tects will in­creas­ingly de­sign build­ings which can be taken apart at the end of their lives and the ma­te­ri­als and com­po­nents used again. “I think in­creas­ingly, ev­ery­thing that we do will be seen through the lens of a cir­cu­lar econ­omy,” said Wayne Hub­bard, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the Lon­don Waste and Re­cy­cling Board.

Ex­perts say change is hap­pen­ing in pock­ets. “We’re still in the early stages where you see some busi­nesses, some ci­ties, na­tional govern­ments play­ing around with these ideas and ... start­ing to make moves to­wards a cir­cu­lar econ­omy,” said Ashima Sukhdev, head of govern­ments and ci­ties at the Ellen MacArthur Foun­da­tion. “I’m very hope­ful that Lon­don will be­come a cir­cu­lar econ­omy.”

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