Reuse must overtake ownership for 'true' sustainable consumption

Materials need to be moved up the waste hierarchy to encourage greater reuse and there needs to be a shift towards leasing products to make consumption more sustainable.

Associate director at Leeds-based consultancy CO2 Sense Katie McGuire told delegates at Carpet Recycling UK's annual conference last week that the real challenge in creating a truly circular economy was moving behaviour away from mass consumption to more sustainable lifestyles.

She said that material scarcity had brought about a radical shift in thinking. "We have limited resources and in terms of our current rate of consumption, how long can this last? What is clear is that future scarcity of materials will threaten the business continuity in all industries."

McGuire offered a number of business case studies to show companies that had successfully put the concept into practice. She added that new business models could include a move away from consumer purchasing to leasing.

"Do we actually need a fridge or do we just need the service that it provides? Why not lease the fridge and that way the manufacturer owns, maintains and repairs that fridge. This encourages them to design a product that has easy maintenance and reuse."

The main challenge, she continued, was that leasing threatened existing business models. "This goes against mass consumerism behaviour, the concept of 'we must buy and have everything, we must have all of these products', so yes this is a radical shift in thinking," she said.

McGuire said that the key to ensuring that more sustainable approaches were a success was to demonstrate the business case and the benefits to companies.

Nick Warburton


| Circular economy | Reuse | sustainable consumption


Waste & resource management

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