The rise in extreme weather events around the world has lit a fire under the global climate movement (quite literally). This is especially true in the UK, where COP26 will take place this October. For this reason, many consider a circular economy to be the best approach in navigating a post-Covid economic recovery.
A circular economy is based on resource efficiency and would help propel the UK’s path towards net zero. Fortunately, a research programme initiating the country’s shift to a circular economy launched in May. The initiative, encompassing 34 universities and 200 industry partners, aims to ease the transition away from taking, making and disposing.
We take a look at what the circular economy means and how UK businesses stand to gain from this approach.
What is a circular economy?
A circular economy is designed to make resources as sustainable and efficient as possible. This means reducing, reusing and recycling resources as much as possible to extend their value and reduce waste.
The main principles behind a circular economy are:
- Design out waste and pollution.
- Keep products and materials in use.
- Regenerate natural systems.
While it is clear that a circular economy can benefit the UK from an environmental perspective, the advantages of this transformation aren’t just climate-related: UK businesses stand to gain as well.
A 2015 study has shown that a circular economic approach could offer costs savings of over half a billion euros by 2030 in Europe alone. It stands to reason that this approach would also benefit those businesses seeking to make financial savings through increased efficiency.
Why should we accelerate our transition to a circular economy?
Each year, Earth Overshoot Day creeps progressively closer. This is an annual milestone, marking when we have used up the natural resources that can be regenerated in a single year. In 2019 and 2021 it fell on 29 July, the earliest date on record.
This means that until the end of the year, the global economy is operating in what is being called an “ecological deficit”. Humanity currently uses 74% more resources than the planet is able to regenerate each year – the equivalent of 1.7 Earths.
In this global culture of waste and inefficiency, the UK is far from unimpeachable – our own national Overshoot Day fell on 19 May this year. The need to transition to a circular economy is becoming more urgent.
How can I prepare my business for a circular economy?
Think about which resources are critical to your business and how you could use them more efficiently. Here are a few areas to consider:
Utilities & Energy
Utilities are usually an excellent starting point, as most businesses need electricity, water and heating. Investing in metering and sub-metering technology across your sites means that you can track these resources and identify areas of waste. A study from the non-profit Club of Rome concluded that installation services for these types of improvements would be central to realising a circular economy in Europe.
Onsite generation may also be a pragmatic energy option for your business. This sustainable solution offers self-sufficiency and energy stability. Onsite generation can play a significant role on the road to net zero. Not to mention, you can avoid rising non-commodity costs which make up a large portion of energy bills.
Waste management is another easy and pragmatic step for businesses looking to adopt a circular approach. The UK generated 222.2 million tonnes of total waste in 2018. Of that, commercial and industrial waste accounted for almost a fifth (19%). This demonstrates the pressing responsibility on these sectors to adopt responsible waste management practices.
In November 2020, the UK government invested £22.5m into five new circular research centres. At the heart of this new funding scheme was the development of sustainable design and disposal principles. These centres will explore and improve the processes of several heavily polluting sectors in the UK.
Sectors under the microscope include textiles, metals, construction, chemical production and electronics waste. Construction alone produces a shocking 154m tonnes of mineral waste per year – enough to fill 30,000 Olympic swimming pools.
How can EIC help?
At EIC, we support the transition to a circular economy by leading our clients towards efficiency and sustainability. Our comprehensive services cover metering and monitoring, waste management, carbon compliance, and even guidance regarding onsite generation.
Whether you are looking to take the first step in becoming more circular, or revolutionising your business to be as sustainable as possible, EIC can help.
To learn more about how we can help you accelerate the shift to a circular economy, contact us at EIC today.