Posts tagged circulareconomy

Is Circular Progress in Fashion Moving Forward or Far Away?


The fashion industry fuels a linear economy with waste greater than $460B of value each year through unsustainable disposal of clothing (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). Characterized as one of the most polluting and wasteful industries, it consumes 98 million tonnes in non-renewable resources, 93 billion cubic metres of water, and 53 metric tons of fibre to produce clothes used for a short time, after which 13% of the total material input is recycled and 73% of the materials are sent to a grave via landfill or incineration (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2017). One estimate suggests that as global population grows to 16% by 2030, the mass-consumption of clothing will grow 65% as 3 billion people move into the middle class (Rosa, 2016).

Reimagining the current take-make-dispose linear process, a circular economy (CE) model demonstrates an opportunity to prevent value leakage by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, including shrinking or decreasing use, slowing, and closing material loops as depicted in Figure 1 (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2015). This analysis will explore circular approaches that collectively address system-level waste in the textile and clothing system, and the effectiveness of each approach in the acquisition of materials, production of goods, consumption, and disposal.

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Cradle-to-Cradle System Design: reflections by Dr. Michael Braungart


Wanted to share insights from Dr. Michael Braungart on circular economy. My focus this Spring in post-graduate work is centered on application of circular economy theory in supply chain optimization.

The passage below is from ICR (2007) 7:152–156 – DOI 10.1007/s12146-007-0020-2 – © ICR 2007 Published online: 28 November 2007.

“Our current ‘eco-efficient’ view of sustainability sees materials flowing through the system in one direction only – from input to an output that is either consumed or disposed of in the form of waste. Eco-efficient techniques may be able to minimize the volume, velocity and toxicity of these material flows, but they cannot alter its linear progression ‘from cradle to grave’. While some materials are recycled, this recycling is difficult and brings added costs. The result of such recycling is actually downcycling: a downgrade in material quality which limits its future usability. We need an ‘eco-effective’ perspective to replace this limited and limiting agenda. In eco-effective industrial systems, the material intensity per service unit or ‘waste’ produced by each individual element is irrelevant as long as the materials entering the system are perpetually maintained as usable resources. For example, if the trimmings from the production of textile garments are composed in such a way that they become nutrients for ecological systems, then it doesn’t matter that they are not included in the saleable product. They are not ‘waste’. Even if the material intensity per service unit of the textile mill is astronomically high, it could still be highly eco-effective if its trimmings become productive resources for natural systems. The goal is not to minimize the cradle-to-grave flow of materials, but to generate cyclical cradle-to-cradle ‘metabolic cycles’ that enable materials to maintain their status as resources and accumulate intelligence over time.

Instead of downcycling this approach is all about upcycling. It doesn’t seek to eliminate waste or produce zero emissions. Instead it focuses on maintaining (or upgrading) resource quality and productivity through many cycles of use (and in doing so, it achieves ‘zero waste’ along the way). The difference between the two strategies of cradle-to-grave and cradle-to-cradle are very important. Strategies focused on achieving ‘zero waste’ do not create sustainable cradle-to-cradle cycles. But eco-efficient cradle-to-cradle cycles do achieve zero waste. How they achieve their goals is also different. ‘Zero waste’ cradle-to-grave strategies emphasize volume minimization, reduced consumption, design for repair and durability and design for recycling and reduced toxicity. On the other hand cradle-tocradle strategies design products and industrial processes so that every single one of their ‘outputs’ becomes a nutrient for another system – designed to be re-used – to create a perpetual cycle where resources are either maintained or ‘upcycled’.”

Moving Towards a Circular Economy

When you think about accelerating impacts and long-term solutions to current supply chain challenges that impact the 3P’s (people, planet and profit), we need to adopt and develop sustainable frameworks with a holistic life-cycle perspective. There is a ton of innovation happening in the CPG space (Levi’s, Unilever, PepsiCo, etc.)

Shifting from the current ‘take-make-waste’ linear model to the circular economy is critical for businesses to continue to thrive and meet society’s needs. Waste volumes are projected to increase from 1.3 to 2.2 billion tons by 2025, and with nearly 9 billion consumers on the planet including 3 billion new middle class consumers by 2030. The challenges of addressing waste and meeting increasing demand are unprecedented. Therefore it is imperative businesses continue to re-evaluate raw materials, design, manufacturing, consumption, and end of life to keep materials and products continuously flowing through closed loop systems.

How is your company innovating in product life cycle management from design and inception to sustainable product packaging? How are you personally adopting a sustainable mindset in your home, the daily choices you make as a consumer to move toward a circular economy? The bigger question is how are YOU INFLUENCING this change?