How waste and recycling create a circular economy | Infrastructure news

The transition to a circular economy is driven by global missions which aim to reduce climate change and protect the earth’s natural resources and biodiversity.

It is largely supported by emerging national and international policies and regulations such as the EU Circular Economy Action Plan, as well as the global rollout of policies such as the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).

Waste and Recycling companies already play a pivotal role in recycling in the linear economy, acting as an important intermediary between waste producers and those companies looking to source quality secondary raw material to replace virgin materials.

According to Waste360 initiatives by the private sector continue to gain momentum following the US Plastic Pact signed by almost 100 multinational companies to make plastic packaging either recyclable, reusable, or compostable.

The importance of a circular economy

A circular economy is defined as systems solution framework that tackles global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste, and pollution.

Determined by a strong integration of the value/supply chains as resource composition, quality, and predictability gain in importance. A circular economy which influences a change in the fundamental traditional business models of waste management companies.

EPR means that the creators of waste must pay for the collection, sorting, and processing of their products at end of life.

Prospects from the circular economy for Waste and Recycling companies include:

  • Increasing resource productivity
  • Helping secure increasingly scarce resources
  • Reducing the environmental impact of production and consumption
  • Advanced recycling whereby more value of the underlying resource is captured and preserved
  • Delivering a more competitive and optimized economy.
  • Innovation – new business models e.g., repair, re-use, re-manufacture, sharing, etc.
The circular economy guarantees less waste pollution in the future as resources will be kept in circulation. This means that recycling will be seen as a lesser option in waste management.

What is needed for a circular economy?

For a circular economy, there needs to be an understanding of policy developments and an assessment of the predicted impact on collection logistics.

For EPR it means that those that are responsible for the creation of waste must cover the costs of its collection, arrangement, and processing which will give them the incentive to design and manufacture products that can easily be reused and recycled.

Deposit return schemes that have been enacted in numerous countries will ensure that materials such as bottles and containers are collected as much as possible.

Organic waste collection will continue to be transformed into soil nutrients and renewable energy.

Single stream collections will be used to create quality secondary materials for recycling with fewer impurities. Allowing better opportunities to export and import higher quality recyclate to global circular economy conscious countries.

Moving towards a more circular economy could deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, improving the security of the supply of raw materials, increasing competitiveness, stimulating innovation, and boosting economic growth.

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