TheTalkingThread

A CIRCULAR ECONOMY AND YOUR ROLE AS THE CONSUMER

sustainable design

Recently, a circular economy has come more into the public eye. In many industries, as the textile industry, companies have been looking for ways to operate in a more sustainable way. For my Bachelor’s Thesis, I decided to research the enablers and barriers of circular business models in the textile industry. As you can understand, sustainable innovation has always been an interest of mine, but I also genuinely feel that a circular economy will eventually become the norm in the future, Therefore I feel the urgency to share the important matters and principles of a circular economy with you and to hopefully interest you as well. Let’s get educated!

Many of the issues that make sustainable development a necessity are a result of the way we have arranged the world. The core of these problems lies in one-way traffic; the cycle is not closed. A cycle that is not closed exists from a resource, to using it, and lastly, discharging it. This model, a linear model, is well known in the fast fashion industry. A logical result from this, that within a period of time there will be a shortage at one place and an excess in another. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (a foundation committed to accelerate the transition to a circular economy), in 2010, 65 billion tonnes of raw material have entered the economic system and is expected to increase to 82 billion tonnes in 2012. To change this, the cycle must be closed. A circular economy must be organized. The figure beneath clearly sets the difference between a linear and circular economy, while immediately explaining both concepts.

Linear vs Circular Economy
Source: Export Leadership Forum

Recently, organizations have begun to realize that following the linear system comes with risk, in particular high resource prices and supply disruptions. The many struggles that come with the linear system, has caused organizations to re-think their business model. In 2012, UK based Hemingway Design collaborated with Worn Again and UK uniform provider Dimension to design closed-loop uniform for McDonald’s UK. The uniforms were to be worn by more than 85,000 employees and could be recycled and reprocessed into new products when its life-cycle ended. Another company that partially produces circular is one of its early-adopters automotive company Renault. By adopting circular principles across their business and a re-manufacturing plant in Choisy le Roi, Paris, they have reduced their energy-use by 80%, their water-use by 88% and their waste by 77% by re-manufacturing instead of making new components.

Key principles

But what are the key principles of a circular economy? Firstly, companies logically need to focus on realizing closed cycles. This can be done within the organization itself, but also with parties in the value chain. Secondly, companies need to strive for value creation. Following the basic principles of the circular economy creates more than just financial value. It is also about creating social and ecological value. Thirdly, a successful circular economy asks for companies to pick fitting strategies. For example, the sale of a product is no longer essential to value creation, but rather delivering added value over the life of the product.

the garment lifecycle
Source: Clara Vuletich

What can you as a consumer do?

Organizations are responsible for designing, sourcing, producing and re-using or recycling the products. However, that does not mean you as a consumer cannot contribute to a circular economy. Consumers can support businesses practicing circular principles by promoting them, buying from them, and cooperate in closing the loop. Secondly, consumers can extend the life cycle of their items as long as possible. They can do this by using, washing and repairing it with care. But also by renting, swapping, loaning or redesigning the item. As long as the consumer does not have to buy new. Lastly, as we always claim, buy quality instead of quantity.

I hope you have learned something new and if you have something to learn us; we are always open for interesting conversations and discussions!

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