Yorkshire Post - Business

How a Circular Economy can eliminate waste

- Bird Lovegod Independen­t Fintech Consultant

How can financial technology help create a Circular Economy?

In keeping with the weather, let’s do a little ‘blue sky’ thinking for a while.

Nature is the master of creating systems. Solar systems. Biological ecosystems. Mysterious subatomic systems. All spinning away as part of one vast organic universal system seemingly without end. It’s like the Circle of Life, Simba. And like life, the Circular Economy is an accumulati­on of circular business models. These include the whole ‘sharing economy,’ which means AirBnB, Uber, and the lovely yellow bikes in OFO. These are part of the P2P business models, peer to peer, connecting people across a platform to share stuff. Like homes, cars, lawnmowers, and money. Other mindsets of a circular economy are the recycling of waste, as directly as possible. This could even mean converting waste from a system into energy to power that system. Like Disney World, which turns food waste from restaurant­s into bio fuels to power rides. Or agricultur­al businesses, which converts corn husks into fuel for tractors. The more integrated the better. Other Circular Economy principles are design lead. Making products with the recycling of them in mind. In practice this means not mixing different materials unnecessar­ily, designing consumer technologi­es to be easily upgradable rather than disposable, not using plastics for items which are used for a second and last ten thousand years. We really have to take this stuff more seriously, unstainabl­e business, which is what we currently think is normal, plus unsustaina­ble population growth plus the knockon effects of climate change and ecological disruption.

Sometimes business processes end up in a rather straight line, with linear business models creating a linear economy. Design, Manufactur­e, Sell, leads on to

Buy, Consume, Dispose. These simplistic and somewhat primitive systems are finite, often grossly inefficien­t, (80 per cent of the value of the multitrill­ion dollar consumer goods industry is ultimately lost) frequently entirely pointless, (plastic cracker fillers) and often have a clear final destinatio­n, a landfill. We even refer to the participan­ts in this process as ‘consumers’, a rather derogatory

Rather than the cheapest, sometimes we could choose the most circular.

and reductive label. Yet it’s what we become when we’re positioned at the end of a pipeline of stuff.

So what’s the alternativ­e?

How can our business economy, including our financial services, become more circular, more efficient, more intelligen­t? And in the process, more ethical, more sustainabl­e, fairer, and even more profitable, as we as customers choose more and more ethical alternativ­es. How can we rise above the parasitic status of consumers and spread our wings as glorious participan­ts in the beautiful game of life?

We could consider microfinan­ce, and microlendi­ng. Organisati­ons such as LendWithCa­re.org and MicroLoanF­oundation.org.uk enable us to lend as little as ten pounds to individual farmers in Zambia and entreprene­urs in Cambodia, to enable them to lift themselves and their families out of poverty. A brilliant way to invest whilst transformi­ng lives for good.

We can also lend to local businesses in this country, again, through a peer to peer system, like Leeds based fintech Rebuilding­Society. We can choose green electricit­y and website hosting from companies like Green-hosting. Rather than the cheapest, sometimes we could choose the most circular. It might cost a few pence more, but the cost of not doing is far greater for the planet. The good news is it’s all already happening around us. Even motor cars are gradually being replaced with electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels dot the landscape, and more and more businesses look towards long-term ethics and sustainabi­lity.

Where is it all heading? It’s impossible to know, but here’s one very possible future, with regards to financial technology and the circular economy. Imagine if we all had our own digital currency, just like we have our own email and Facebook accounts. Imagine if we were automatica­lly given 20,000 coins on every birthday, all our lives, from birth, and we could trade with each other with these digital coins.

It would still be possible to earn as much as you wanted, or could, and many people would. But by having our own cryptocurr­encies, each worth the same as everyone else’s, no one would be in poverty. Think I’m dreaming? I’m not the only one.

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