The circular economy
Circular principles can be applied to just about every sector of the economy, from clothing to computers, compostable packaging to cars. Here are a few global examples, courtesy of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
In New York City, residents throw away 200 million pounds of clothing each year. In 2019, the #WearNext campaign encouraged residents to donate, repair, resell or swap those clothes instead, while an online map highlighted public and private collection points. Thanks to the campaign—a collaboration between the city, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and several high-profile retailers—drop-offs at those points increased an average of 15 per cent.
In Belo Horizonte, one of Brazil’s biggest cities, the Computer Reconditioning Centre is helping divert electronic waste from landfill. Here, low-income residents are trained to refurbish old computers, which are then given a new life at “digital inclusion sites” that offer free access to computers and the internet. Through this initiative, the city has diverted more than 165,000 kilograms of electronic waste from landfill since 2008.
Single-use take-out food containers are a big source of waste. In Australia, BioPak is addressing that issue with compostable packaging from responsibly sourced materials. However, they also recognize that not every community offers municipal composting services. That’s why BioPak also collects and composts their used containers, ensuring they don’t end up in landfill.
Meanwhile, French car manufacturer Renault is finding ways to close the loop in its factories. Today, 36 per cent of a typical car coming off the Renault line is made from repurposed materials, including remanufactured engine parts and recycled steel, copper, textiles and plastics.
Of course, Guelph-Wellington boasts many homegrown examples of our own.
Consider Zócalo Organics. The 83-acre vegetable farm in Wellington County is powered by a solar generator and committed to symbiotic agricultural practices—including mulching, using no-till techniques and composting their crop residues. In addition, the operators package their produce in reusable totes and donate thousands of pounds of food that would otherwise be wasted to a local food pantry each year.
You’ll also find a number of circular business practices at the Delta Hotels Guelph Conference Centre. Outside, a cistern collects water for irrigation projects. Inside, locally sourced foods feature heavily on the menus, including honey produced next door at the University of Guelph. In the kitchen, staff store food in reusable stainless-steel containers instead of tinfoil, avoid using excessive water when rinsing produce and carefully track all food and packaging waste.