Much has been made of the billions in business benefits in shifting towards circularity. But traditional metrics used to measure waste management aren’t suitable for more circular activities. At a conference in Edinburgh last week, experts said more data intelligence on material inputs and outputs…

What happens when an entire nation gets behind an idea? The world will often take notice, especially if there are great lessons to learn. Scotland is moving to enact a circular economy bill to support its Making Things Last strategy. Since Scotland wants to reduce waste, which has been working on its Zero Waste Plan since 2010, they have been promoting associated activities like reducing consumption, recycling and resource efficiency. What do we mean by resource efficiency? Less food waste, longer lasting products and repair of broken items. What is required is nothing less than cultural transformation.

Why do this? Many do not fully realize that there are enormous costs that are not factored when we throw away that bottle that contained water or misshapen fruit and vegetables that won’t sell. Included in the cost to dispose of that water bottle are costs:

  • the cost of purchasing the water
  • the cost to collect, store, process and bottle the water
  • the cost of the bottles
  • the cost to ship bottles to consumer and interim way stations like warehouses, distribution centers and stores
  • the time needed to manage the process
  • lost revenue
  • time needed to plan for and haul waste
  • cost of waste disposal

The reason to focus on the circular economy is the £2.8 billion economic opportunity, that is estimated windfall for Scotland. One lesson learned is that usual waste metrics are no longer sufficient to track progress. Think of waste is the output of an inefficient system. In nature, waste does not exist. Waste from one species is feedstock for another. To emulate nature, business must do more to consider the entire ecosystem in which they operate. Closed-loop systems that leverage cross-industry collaborations are common models.

We’re in early days of circular business, but it isn’t too early to start thinking about how to make your business more circular. Need help? Give us a call.

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