The term "circular economy" might seem to be popping up in your feeds a lot recently—and for good reason!
Canada announced in June 2020 that it would be joining Finland and the Netherlands in advancing the circular economy strategy to help recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and fight climate change.
The Province of Manitoba, for the first time in history, is partnering with the Dutch government by hosting a global online conference—Building Strong Communities: A Circular Approach. The conference will feature representatives from Metabolic—an international team of experts from the Netherlands whose mission is to transition the global economy—to discuss how circularity impacts the following:
- people living in urban areas
- agricultural land development
- natural areas
- food security
- community building
- waste reduction
- energy uses
But what exactly does "circular economy" mean?
Let's reference how Waste Reduction Week in Canada describes it.
Products have historically been designed for convenience but with no consideration of the waste left behind. Take the plastic straw for example; Canadians use 57 million of them every day and most end up in the garbage or lost to the environment.
Take a raw material, make something, use it, and dispose it; that is a linear economy.
The solution is in the circular economy where we design products so resources can be reused and reinvested in new products again and again.
How is this different from recycling? Rather than having to find a recycling solution after a product is designed and brought to market—like the plastic straw—recovery and material reuse is part of the design and manufacturing process of the product from the beginning.
A circular economy also supports the idea of access over ownership. Streaming services like Spotify and Netflix rent access to content without you needing to own anything like CDs and DVDs. By shifting to access over ownership, the responsibility falls to manufacturers to make longer lasting and more efficient products that are designed with repair and reuse as primary considerations.
How can we advance the circular economy? Purchase smartly designed products meant to be reused, refurbished, and dismantled. Support companies that offer take-back of products after use. Embrace access over ownership!
What can Manitoba do?
Our province—in addition to every other province and country, for that matter—first needs to explore how shifting from a linear economy to a circular one would work. And the first step to making change is understanding why change is necessary and what exactly needs changing.
Canada needs a circular economy that is restorative and regenerative by design; and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.
We can re-design the way our economy works by designing products and services that limit consumption, improve the value materials, and protect resources.
A good point to remember is that the circular economy aims to design out the concept of "waste."
Circular business models will prove essential for businesses that want to be future-proof in a society where resource constraints are a growing problem.
So, when it comes to how we can approach these shifts, there a five circular business models:
1. Circular supplies: Supply fully renewable, recyclable, or biodegradable resource inputs to support circular production.
2. Resource recovery: Eliminate material leakage and maximize economic value of product return flows.
3. Products life extension: Extend the current lifecycle of a product: reparability, upgrading, reselling.
4. Products as service: Stimulating collaboration among product users.
5. Sharing platforms: Products are used by one or many customers through lease or pay-for-use arrangements.
Where do we go from here?
Our province, and country, are doing a lot of work in shifting towards a circular approach. The Winnipeg Metropolitan Region's upcoming conference in February 2021 aims to move Manitoba from talk to action when it comes to implementing a circular approach. If you're curious about learning what a circular economy might look like for Manitoba, register for the event here, or simply follow Winnipeg Metro Region on Facebook or Twitter to stay updated.
The 2021 edition of the landmark circular economy event of the year, the World Circular Economy Forum (WCEF), will be held in Toronto, Ontario, at the Beanfield Centre, from September 13 to 15, 2021. WCEF2021 will mark the first time the forum is held in North America.
The event will focus on the cross-cutting issues and topics that are central to economic recovery and the circular transition. WCEF2021 will identify the key actions and systemic changes needed to create the conditions for long-term success on the path to a thriving global circular economy.
For more information about the work and events that have already happened, click here.
We hope that this short post helped give you a little bit of an understanding as to what a circular economy means and why our country is making these changes.
We at Lake Friendly are excited about this idea for Manitoba as it means less waste in our waters and landfills, more reusing of resources, and a cleaner and more competitive province overall.
As always, stay curious, stay healthy, and stay lake friendly!