5 Companies embracing a circular economy
Predislava Derugin | May 15, 2019
5 Companies embracing a circular economy
Predislava Derugin
May 15, 2019

In a survey of 300 American executives in 2019, ING found that 62% plan to adopted a circular economy framework in their companies, and 16% have already done so. Nearly twice as many U.S. businesses say that they are embedding sustainability in strategic decision-making in 2019 compared to 2018.

However, most companies are still in the early stages of understanding what "circular economy" actually means. There is a misconception that it's simply about recycling or reducing waste. Many miss the circular economy principle of keeping products, components, and materials in circulation longer, thereby reducing resource extraction, supply chain risk, and climate pollution.

True circular economy is hard to achieve because it's easier for consumers to throw things away than to return them. And in many cases, it is cheaper to make something from raw materials than to reuse or recycle products. Companies have to figure out how to make the economics work.

Nevertheless, many companies are moving in that direction. Here are five companies that are helping to pave the way:
Heineken opened a brewery in Mexico, where every piece of waste is repurposed or recycled. It uses waste heat from a nearby factory to run the its boilers. A water treatment plant will purify water used in production and will produce biogas that can also be used for heat in the brewing process. Broken glass and washed-off bottle labels can be recycled. Electricity is provided by rooftop solar panels, photovoltaic glass on buildings, and off-site wind and solar power. The sludge from the plant will go to nearby farms to improve the soil, while spent grains will be sold as cattle feed. Heineken is also making higher-value products from spent grains by extracting proteins, fats, and other components for future uses in food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
2. Dell
Dell is designing modular technology that allows electronics to be easily recycled into new ones, helping to keep materials circulating in the system. The company uses plastics recovered from recycled technology to make new plastic parts, resulting in a smaller carbon footprint and even lower costs. It partnered with Nikki Reed to create The Circular Collection by Bayou with Love, a jewelry line sourced from gold recovered from its recycled circuit boards.
Full Cycle is a San Francisco-based startup that is creating a revolution in bioplastics. It developed an innovative way to turn organic and food waste into PHAs, a type of bioplastic that can be used in a wide range of applications. Full Cycle's PHA is compostable, marine-degradable, reduces the consumption of fossil fuels for producing polymers. And by using waste as feedstock, it avoids the common problem of bioplastics using precious natural resources to grow their feedstock.
Adidas has launched the FUTURECRAFT.LOOP line - a new 100 per cent recyclable shoe aimed at tackling the problem of plastic waste. The shoes are made with only one material and no glue. Each component is made from 100 per cent reusable TPU, so materials can be repurposed again and agai. Once customers no longer want the shoes they can be returned to Adidas to be repurposed into another pair.
Philips is making stides toward circular economy in HealthTech. Its waste recycling rate is at 81%; the company is getting most of its energy from renewable sources; two-thirds of sales revenues comes from green products. In line with the broader notion of circular economy, the company provides medical equipment such as CT machines to hospitals as a service (for rent), and uses an easy-to-upgrade design that makes it possible to replace some parts rather than the whole machine.

It is exciting to think about how many different kinds of products and industries can incorporate principles of circularity. And the more companies that adopt the vision, the faster we will discover strategies that ease the transition to a sustainable future.
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