Why shouldn’t what goes around come around?

I have often contemplated that my regular trip to the recycling bins results in far more waste in the plastics bin than in any other. I also recognise the harm that this is doing to the planet by using non-biodegradable materials.

Like many people, including the celebrity activists, I assume that this is a problem that can only be solved by governments. I feel a little virtuous tremor with my recycling efforts but expect the solution to come from international two-day meetings or climate change targets that are expected to be reached long after my time on the damaged planet.

At least, that was my gloomy prediction until a little while ago, when I realised that, instead of protesting, we could do something about it. When I say we, I mean the businesses, big and small, that I work with.

As a result of a major project that I was working on, I needed to look more closely at the circular economy. For those who have not discovered it, instead of the standard linear approach of take, make and waste, the circular economic model redefines the way we do business.

A great example of this approach is that of Teemill that produces t-shirts through the circular economic approach. We know that a lorry load of used clothing is dumped into landfill every second, and that three out of five t-shirts bought today will be thrown away by this time next year.

Teemill starts by utilising the natural resources better. Cotton is grown using organic fertilisers, irrigated through rainwater harvesting, and protected using insect traps rather than chemicals. Co-planting with other crops also helps fix nutrients and assists with pest control.

In the factory the waste water is recycled to drinking water standard and the factory has been converted to renewable energy. Over-production is eliminated with technology through printing and dispatch in real time and products can be returned for recycling, post free, through scanning a QR code on the clothing label that produces the return postage label.

There are many other side benefits to this process, but it demonstrates the principles of the circular economic approach over the take, make, waste, linear economy.

This approach is not just one that relies on young SMEs, it can be adopted by large businesses and governments. Indeed, there are many examples of where this is being done.

In. the part of the world where I live at present, palm trees proliferate. However, the dead fronds from old age or harvesting are another example of a natural resource that is often overlooked. The fronds can be composted and made into fuel bricks rather than simply burning them as rubbish.

I also note that Thai fishermen are being paid to collect plastic waste from the sea as another way of cleaning up our oceans. Given there are 38 million fishermen in the world and that they are all dependent on clean oceans for their living, that is a lot of cleaning potential.

So, as the leaders of the developed world gather for their climate change summit, it would be interesting to draw up a scorecard. How many tons of carbon emissions were used to get them there in private planes? How much waste and carbon emissions were created to build and furnish the site of the meeting? How many objectives were agreed with end dates after each of the leaders have left office? How many resolutions to support the circular economy were made?

I will not be holding my breath, however unclear the air! I will simply be reminded of the quote: “Those that say it is impossible should get out of the way of those of us that are doing it!”


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