What if everything was truly circular?

Businessman hold circular economy icon. Sustainable strategy approach to eliminate waste and pollution for future growth of business and environment, design to reuse and renewable material resources.

The very concept of a circular economy has gained huge traction over the last couple of years and continues to gather greater momentum in response to the urgent environmental and economic challenges we face today.

And rightly so. As global organisations, individuals, and societies now actively work together to seek faster and more effective solutions to address the rampant consumption of tangible items, which are having devastating and lasting impacts for humans, wildlife and the planet.

Today more than ever, the use-it-up-and-throw-it-away model of living must be replaced with a greater emphasis on a circular economy: where waste and pollution are designed out, products and materials are kept in use for longer, allowing natural systems to regenerate.

But transitioning from a traditional linear way of life and living to a circular approach prompts us to contemplate a fundamental question: What if everything was circular and operated within a circular system?

This shift, of course, necessitates broad collaboration and collective action over the long-term to fully embrace and embed the circular ethos across all aspects of our daily lives.

Total cost of ownership

In Twig’s latest White Paper, we shed light on purchasing habits and the positive changes that would permeate society, the economy, and the environment if more people, more industries and organisations looked at the total cost of ownership with goods, stock and items in order to keep them in use for longer.

The total ownership cost of an item refers to the real-term cost of something over the whole time of owning it. A phone, for example, could have an initial cost of £600 and be sold for £300 a few years later. The difference (£300), therefore, is the total ownership cost.

Mass adoption of the notion – and action – of a fully circular economy, where total cost consumption is considered at the outset of buying, would greatly slow down waste. Currently, there is an estimated $49 Trillion worth of dormant goods in our households, destined for the landfill, so even if a fraction of such can be diverted and enter the circular economy, we will be overall better off collectively, including the environment.

Through the re-thinking and redesign of services and buying habits, we hope that individuals and organisations can work towards ensuring that resources are used efficiently and materials are kept in circulation for as long as possible.

Textiles and waste

The textile industry is a huge facilitator of waste. Each year, huge quantities of fossil fuels are used to produce clothes from synthetic fibres. Textile production (including cotton farming) uses almost 100 billion cubic metres of water per year, approximately 4% of global freshwater withdrawal. At the same time, people throw away still-wearable clothes worth an estimated $460 Billion each year*.

These figures alone mean a fundamental change and shift in action must take place, and it all starts with greater education about total cost of ownership versus the use-it-and-throw-it-away society.

New economies 

The shift towards re-selling, recycling and remanufacturing will also become a source of new job and industry creation as we know it.

Across the world, alternatives such as trading-in programmes and sustainable support services are being developed to facilitate changing patterns of consumer and corporate behaviour all geared towards resource efficiency and waste reduction all while driving economic growth and prosperity.

Eco-cleaning company Melior and nature-positive company Nature Impact are just a couple of organisations striving to change behaviour and move the dial towards circularity. Both founders have recently contributed to Twig’s Big Earth Energy podcast, to discuss the challenges, opportunities and solutions they are developing for a better future, and we applaud such innovation.

The founders of the future will no doubt use their own perception of the circular economy as a springboard to nurture new ideas and innovative solutions all focused on one thing, circular economy impact.

By reimagining traditional production processes and adopting circular principles, we hope it encourages the development of more sustainable products and services. This approach must surely encourage established businesses to think beyond the linear “take-make-dispose” paradigm and promote the creation of solutions, such as For the Earth, by Twig, which puts organisations in the driving seat to help employees become more environmentally conscious and offset their own footprints to drive down climate action.

In addition, cultivating collaboration and knowledge sharing is essential for a successful transition to a circular economy. It requires the active involvement of governments, businesses and individuals. By working together, sharing best practices, and collaborating on research and development, we can accelerate the adoption of circular practices and overcome the barriers to implementation.

By exploring these aspects of the circular economy, we can hope to gain a deeper understanding of its transformative potential. It offers a pathway to address the urgent environmental issues we face while simultaneously unlocking economic opportunities and fostering a culture of innovation. The transition to a circular economy and total cost of ownership necessitates a collective effort to create a more sustainable and prosperous future for generations to come.

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