Reduce, reuse, recycle.
This is a common phrase that we hear on a daily basis.
There is no doubt that changing behaviours and lifestyles to act in a more sustainable way is crucial. However, only 9% of the plastic waste that has ever been generated is recycled and, whilst a more responsible consumption pattern is needed, companies need to embrace cutting out waste completely, to create a completely closed loop system. Innovations related to this are taking off in many different sectors – helping cleaning up the ocean and in more sustainable clothing – to name but two. Circular economy is a closed loop system aimed at cutting out waste completely, therefore saving resources and the environment through cutting out emissions. These companies are helping bring focus on circular economy as key to the future.
Stroodles Pasta Straws
Ocean plastics are common knowledge, with significant media coverage on the devastating impacts this can have on marine life.
Let’s take straws for example. Each day, more than 500,000,000 plastic straws are used and thrown away in the USA alone. There are many different ways to help prevent this waste as an individual. By saying no to straws when ordering a cocktail or by using a reusable straw: this is more sustainable but will ultimately also end up as waste at some point in its life cycle. Secondly, you can use a biodegradable straw. This is the best option. For example, Stroodles Pasta Straws is made out of wheat and water, with their production requiring very little resources and there is no waste in this closed loop system – you can eat the straw after use.
This is circular economy. A system that, instead of creating waste, uses what would be waste to create something else, something useful. Instead of polluting our environment and our oceans, waste becomes a raw material.
Some companies have understood this and are making the most out of this. Rash’R, an Irish clothing brand, is making rash vests out of plastic bottles. For one vest, they need 13 2L-bottles. This creative technology goes to show that closing the loop solutions can be seen to be the future for business. You can buy a vest, whilst knowing that the production methods are helping to keep both the ocean and the environment clean!
Another cutting-edge idea comes from brands that are using fishing nets to make new fabrics. Straws represent only 0.03% of plastic pollution. In comparison, fishing nets are responsible for 46% of this pollution. This issue endangers ocean biodiversity: marine life, such as dolphins or turtles, can get entangled, trapped and hurt. Because fishing nets are not biodegradable, they remain in the environment for a long time and can have a cascading effect on the marine ecosystem.
Waterhaul is leading the way to tackle this issue, turning this problem on its head to create a solution. Waterhaul works with NGO’s and community groups to remove fishing nets from beaches and the sea and using them to make sunglasses. Next time you need sunglasses, instead of buying glasses made out of plastic, choose the option to contribute to cleaner oceans.
The German startups, GOTBAG, is the first bag created completely from plastic ocean waste. This makes travelling more sustainable, and can also can be used on a day-to-day basis. Most importantly, new innovative products such as these create a narrative and an awareness that recycled ocean plastic can be transformed into practical and stylish solutions.
The Ocean Bottle
Special mention must also go to OceanBottle. This elegant bottle is a long term solution, whereby each bottle sold funds the collection of 1000 plastic bottles, preventing them from entering the oceans.
One of the most known sustainable fashion brands is Patagonia. Patagonia’s business is to manufacture, repair and recycle products so that they either last a lifetime or that the products are re-used or recycled. Patagonia has also reduced its environmental impact in its sourcing. In 1993, the company devised a fleece material made from plastic bottles — then shared its knowledge with other companies in a bid to encourage the use of the recycled textile in the clothing sector.
With their motto “Live Simply” which implies a minimalistic way of living buying things that are truly needed, Patagonia riots against consumerism silently, but in a style.
“Can I save money and the planet by shopping online? Can I buy second-hand clothes and give them a new life whilst also saving money and stopping them from going to landmass.”
Buying clothes that use recycled materials or that are made with organic cotton from brands like Teemill is a move towards a cleaner future. With Teemill, you can design your own organic clothing, putting the individual as the designer of sustainable fashion. The company only uses organic cotton, saying no to the conventional cotton farming which involves lots of different agrochemicals that not only harm the nature but also give negative impact on local cotton farmers’ life.
This sustainable transition in your lifestyle can truly make a difference to the mindset around sustainable apparel.
Terracycle x Japan Tobacco International
Circular economy technologies are also infiltrating the waste sector. Cigarette butts are one of the most common pieces of trash that we see on a daily basis and these small deadly butts are toxic and take many years to biodegrade, from 18 months to 10 years, depending on the conditions. Terracycle is paving the way to recycling cigarette butts through.
In collaboration with Japan Tobacco International, the Cigarette Waste Programme is present in 991 locations. Terracycle take the cigarette filters then shred and mix this with other recycled materials. They can be used as a compound to make sheet boards or be densified and extruded into pellets. This plastic can then be used for injection moulding or extrusion.
Circular is the Future of Our Planet!
Eliminating waste instead of reducing waste has opened the door to many different innovations in a wide range of sectors. Continually using resources, turning them into new products and solutions, creates a closed system, reducing unnecessary emissions and creating a cleaner planet.
A circular economy can benefit the health industry, automotive and many more.
We need to find more technologies that are making a real impact, so if you know any other technologies that are out there saving the planet, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Co-written by Joséphine Le Moigne, Christopher Storey, and Nicholas Walker)