A Bio Circular Economy

Written by: Sarah Valliere

2021-02-20

      Recently, I’ve been thinking about the idea of recycling and a product’s full life-cycle. How many times can something really be recycled?  Recycling is seen as a better alternative than just throwing trash in the garbage but at one point that material does end up in the landfill – that is if it even does get recycled. Right now, it is said that 85% of glass doesn’t even get recycled in Quebec. If it’s due to the unwashed material in the recycling or the misinformation about what can be recycled, the bigger problem lies in the system. Since recycled material isn’t separated previously to pick up, a lot of cross contamination happens making everything in that bin non-salvageable. Moreover, since the Montreal recycling center is a for profit establishment it is consistently on the break of shutting down because it isn’t making money. 

 Not to say recycling is a bad solution to our climate crisis, but too much pressure is fixed only on recycling when it comes to fixing our waste problem within businesses.

This lead me to the concept of a bio-circular economy. 

 

A circular economy is basically looking past the “make and waste” concept fully by integrating the question “how can we keep this material in use?” in the design process of the product. So, whatever is produced must convert back into our economic ecosystem.

 A.k.a to not end up in the landfill. 

Circular economy is by no means a new development yet there are great leaps in new bio-circular innovations. From fish scale electronic displays to sanitary products made from banana peels, BIO-circular economy provides a lot of solutions that tackle waste and takes off  pressure on the recycling plants. Simultaneously, sustainably sourced bio-products have a huge impact on restoring ecosystems. For example, seaweed is a material that has lots of potential, it has the resilience to replace single used plastic. Loliware is a company that is using the vast amount of underwater forest to create a seaweed based hyper-compostable technology to replace plastics. In doing so, they are rebuilding and regenerating the marine ecosystem on the Eastern shores of the US.

Mushroom packaging is another bio-product that companies are adopting, it infuses locally sourced agricultural byproducts (such as hemp hurd or rice hulls) with mushroom spores. This not only give the opportunity of a closed loop circle but to practice good sourcing. Sustainable sourcing 

 its own social benefits on top of environmental benefits. What’s great about these bio-products is that it’s life cycle never ends. When the product decomposes naturally, its energy transfers to the soil making it richer in nutrients. It disappears. 

 

All this to say, maybe recycling isn’t the solution for things like packaging. Companies need to adopt more innovative, natural material that can in the end “disappear” naturally. We shouldn’t focus on making things built to last because well…it shouldn’t. We need to create single-use products that live and die to be transformed back into the bio-circular economy.  

In business, the biggest driver of innovation lies in the future of sustainability. Are you a business who has adopted a circular economy model? A great tool to measure the level of  circularity in your operations is Circular IQ’s CTI Tool. (https://ctitool.com/) 

 

What do you guys think? Who is responsible for creating this type of economy, the government, individuals, companies? Personally, I think it’s a collaboration between all parties but should be lead by government regulations and so on. That is easier said then done yes, but something to think about.