30 Oct 2019

Recycling Week and transitioning to the circular economy

Posted in: Reducing emissions

Recycling Week and transitioning your business to the circular economy

Last week was recycling week and we looked at what the circular economy could mean for your business.

Recycling week is all about reducing the impact of our waste through minimising and recycling. It’s also the perfect opportunity for New Zealand businesses to consider how they can transition to the ‘circular economy’ to reduce their production of end-of-life waste.

What is the circular economy and why should my business care?

The circular economy is an alternative to our traditional linear economy, where we use a product until it breaks and then throw it away.

The circular economy is designed to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them during use, and recover and regenerate materials at the end of their life.

Products in a circular economy can be easily repaired, re-manufactured or recycled - or used, composted and their nutrients returned to the earth. This is great for the environment as we don’t need to extract new, virgin materials to make new products.

Linear vs circular economies

The linear vs circular economies

By Catherine Weetman - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0.

Obviously, the circular economy is good for the environment, but it’s also good for business. Organisations save on waste disposal costs, realise reputational benefits and discover the commercial opportunities that come through meaningful environmental stewardship.

Reclaim are an Enviro-Mark Gold® certified organisation and supplier of recyclable resources. Their passion for helping organisations understand the value in waste led them to power Recycling Week. Tim Simpkins, General Manager of Sales at Reclaim, is adamant that New Zealand businesses and individuals need to change our attitudes to waste.

“Waste should no longer be treated as rubbish and dismissed as worthless,” he says. “It should be valued and re-used as a future resource. We want to ensure these resources are processed properly at dedicated recycling centres, rather than buried in a landfill.”

Where can I start?

If you’re interested in supporting or transitioning to a circular economy, start small. Consider hiring, leasing or sharing products through peer-to-peer networks, as an alternative to buying.

This business model, where the manufacturer retains ownership and greater control over the life cycle, incentivises longer-lasting and robustly designed products. The model can be supported by guarantees and trusted repair services, while financial incentives to return used products means they are more likely to be refurbished and re-sold rather than dumped in a landfill.

What next?

Reclaim recycling

The reality is that there will still be a lot of products and material used by your organisation that cannot be reused or repaired. This is where good recycling systems take over.

“There is such a wide variety of recycling options for businesses in New Zealand”, says Tim. “I recommend that every organisation contact Reclaim or a recycling provider in their area to discuss what will work best for them”.

It’s also worth taking a closer look at the stuff you’re throwing away.

An estimated 30,000 tonnes of paper-based recyclables go to landfill each year from Auckland alone, which Reclaim estimates equates to a staggering $6 million which could be avoided with better recycling systems.

“A Reclaim waste audit can quickly identify the elements traditionally sent to landfill that can be readily recycled”, says Tim. “Once a company’s waste make-up is identified, significant reduction of waste to landfill is achievable” – that includes glass, plastics, aluminium, batteries, toners, food waste, furniture and IT equipment.

“Our focus for Recycling Week is to provide education and easy to replicate tactics for effective recycling that illustrate to companies how simple diverting waste from landfill can be.

The ultimate outcome is that companies commit to formal on-going recycling programmes.”

What can I do?

Make it your mission to help your business participate in the circular economy, improve your recycling systems and significantly reduce the amount of waste you send to landfill.

Here are some easy tips to get you started:

  • Encourage staff to edit on computers, store and share files digitally
  • Set up computers to automatically print two-sided, and only print on demand
  • Use single spacing and narrower margins, and consider lighter weight printing paper
  • Shredded waste office paper can be reused as packaging filler.
  • Partner with a recycling provider like Reclaim that arranges for recyclables like paper and cardboard to be made into new products.

We hope you got some inspiration from last week's recycling week - take a look a what you can do in your own business and share your stories with us on Facebook or Twitter!