By consuming a single fruit, nothing can be considered waste. Peel, when fallen to the ground, may become fertilizer to strengthen local plants. Seeds, in turn, originate new fruit trees from the same species. For nature, there is no waste. Processes occur in cycles, like moon phases, tidal movements, seasons and water that evaporate and returns to the soil in the form of rain.
However, industrialization has created assembly lines of products with an established and limited lifespan. A product is manufactured, consumed and disposed of. Often, the methodology for extraction of raw material, product development, use and disposal does not consider that, later, the material will end in landfills, incineration or open dumps – and eventually yield to natural decomposition.
The problem with linear thinking is that man is, currently, extracting much more raw material than the planet can absorb. Moreover, the problem is that waste is getting more complex than it seemed in the beginning of manufacturing activities. Soil and ocean pollution directly impact life on the planet and harm biodiversity.
To have an idea of the problem, if the global population in fact reaches 9.6 billion by 2050, almost three planet Earths will be needed to provide the required natural resources to keep the current humanity lifestyle, according to the World Bank.
A way to circumvent nature depletion is to think of a way to extract fewer resources and get the most of them, for the greatest time possible, estimating product lifespan. Thus, this product is also designed with the moment of disposal in mind.
This is the circular economy: to think of a product from the beginning to the end of its lifespan, aiming at the highest efficiency in the use of materials and energy, and reducing waste generation.
Thus, circular economy may and must be part of our daily lives. See how it is currently done, maybe for yourself, and get inspired to do what you were doing without noticing, that is, to collaborate with circular economy goals.
Infographic: Circular economy in one image
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What do you do with those old panties, torn shirt, pants that shrank, that blouse that became lousy? Some clothes can be taken for donation, but uniforms, underwear or too worn-out pieces need a different destination. And the bin is the least recommendable. Renovar Têxtil, for example, collects 120 tons/month of scraps that would end up in landfills. The textile waste becomes padding, blankets, felt, and thermal and sound blankets for automobile, construction, civil, decoration sectors and others. Retalhar receives used uniforms and gives fabric, buttons and zippers new applications. Banco de Tecidos also receives scraps from textile industry and fashion market. Whole fabrics can be purchased or exchanged with others at their physical stores in São Paulo, Curitiba and Porto Alegre.
The car you use daily and your backpack may have more in common than you imagine! With some creativity and design study, seat belt scraps and automobile fabric become purses, backpacks, suitcase, wallets, folders, trays, place mats and many other things, all colorful, modern and stylish. Some non-governmental organizations and cooperatives develop exactly this work: receiving waste and reusing it, generating value, jobs and giving opportunity to raw material already extracted from nature. One example is Cooperárvore, that has carried out reuse projects for ten years involving community and focusing on women’s empowerment.
Did you know your mobile may be returned for free to the same store you purchased it? Modern devices are assembled with boards creating various layers made with fine metals and fine wires. These components may be disassembled and destined for reuse separately. Manufacturing companies are already prepared for reverse logistics and take back their products, reusing them in new equipment of the same type or reconditioning raw material for new uses. For example, some elements from the battery may be recovered and become loudspeakers. Perhaps the mobile phone you are using right now has been made from reused products.
Agricultural scraps may also be restored to the production chain. Biomass, a result of renewable resource decomposition, such as plants, timber, food scraps and animal excrement, may be used as input for producing fuel. Manure from grazing animals may be prepared to become fertilizer and enrich the soil for plantation. It may also originate biogas, which is generated from biodigestion of this waste and may be turned into electricity or renewable fuel.
In small daily choices, as in purchases, consumption and disposal of kitchen, bathroom or office trash, for example, there are also circular economy good practices.
Thinking of new possibilities for packaging we dispose of may benefit families and all society. Transforming PET bottles into vases, reusing glass bottles, cardboard and avoiding food waste are simple attitudes that may contribute towards that.
If disposal is inevitable, it must be conscious. Collaborating with the circular economy may be easier than you can imagine: by giving your objects proper disposal, you will be returning to the industry a material that is worth money, generates jobs and relieves pressure on the environment. Sort out your garbage and check which days the collection truck passes by your street. Another alternative is to look for areas in which there are cooperatives.
For disposal of organics, we can think of small and homemade composting stations. Diluted mass is a powerful and natural fertilizer. But if you opt for disposal, choose biodegradable plastic and never leave your trash at non-indicated public locations. During decomposition, the bad smell draws bugs and the pollution may cause diseases.
Content published in February 7, 2019