According to National Geographic, approximately 8 million pieces of plastic enter the ocean each year, the equivalent of five garbage bags full of rubbish on every foot of shoreline worldwide.
Microplastics are swallowed by fish and obstruct their digestive tracts or penetrate their organs, killing millions of creatures via entanglement or hunger. According to a recent study published in Scientific Reports, the fish that end up on your dinner plate may include microplastics and associated hazardous poisons, such as heavy metals and organic contaminants.
Plastic is just one sort of waste that pollutes the air, land, and water if it is not recycled, repurposed, or remanufactured. Unfortunately, implementing recycling programs, mitigating groundwater pollution, and adhering to environmental standards cost cities and taxpayers a lot of money. The good news is that businesses and customers are becoming more environmentally conscious and switching from a linear to a circular supply chain. We can lower the toxicity and volume of garbage that ends up in landfills by lessening the demand for produced goods.
The Circular Economy
The circular economy aims to reduce resource intake and waste creation that leaks into the environment. To avoid waste, the objective is to limit the amount of primary raw materials utilized and extract as much as possible from them. The product is then recycled, remanufactured, or reused.
Recycle: Collect materials to be utilized in the creation of new products.
Remanufacture: Refurbish or replace components in an existing product that has stopped working due to wear and tear or damage, and then reintegrate it into the supply chain.
Reuse/resell: Products are transferred or sold from one user to another.
Many things will change for supply chain organizations as a result of the circular economy. As retailers and customers demand more environmental awareness, businesses must reconsider how they make and transport products.
Four Things to Consider Before Kicking Off Your Sustainability Project
Business Models Enabling Circular Supply
To handle circular flows, a slew of new business models are developing. In Nigeria, for example, where unemployment is extremely high and there are no sophisticated recycling facilities in place, individuals gather plastic, paper, and glass from apartment blocks and transport it to recycling factories where they are paid per ton. Uber, on a larger scale, provides a platform for providing transportation just when it is required. This concept is preferable to keeping a five-seat automobile in the garage that only transports one passenger for two hours each day on average.
Another business model that enables circular supply is companies that sell solvents as a service. They can manage how the solvents are used, recover what’s left, clean it up, and utilize it for other uses.
Flea markets and pawn shops are still popular ways to recycle and repurpose items. Companies like eBay, Gumtree, Craig’s List, and Facebook community groups have sprung up as a result of this notion of a “market” where individuals can go to purchase and sell previously owned products.
Attempts are being made by certain shops to decrease their packaging impact. Supermarkets in New Zealand had begun “food in the nude” initiatives, in which all their fresh produce is offered without wrapping. Pick n Pay in Cape Town, South Africa, is experimenting with a packaging-free shopping zone. Dry items such as baked goods, cereals, dried fruit, grains, ground coffee, almonds, pasta, and rice are available in this zone. Customers are advised to bring their own reusable containers, although the business also sells free paper bags and reusable containers. The lack of packing results in decreased costs for both the shop and the consumer.
Enablers and Accelerators
Enablers and accelerators are systems and technologies that enable or accelerate the recycling or remanufacturing process. 3D printing, big data, the Internet of Things, and innovative ways of thinking, such as green chemistry, are just a few examples of technologies that promote a circular economy.
Start Your Journey
Start by taking baby steps in your efforts in the correct direction if you want to live in a greener future. Start with short-term projects and reinvest the profits into long-term gains, rather than revamping your entire company. Consider creating a company plan that allows you to return and resell your items. You can’t profit from the end-of-use stage if you don’t return your things. It doesn’t make much sense to design smart items that are ecologically benign solely to benefit other firms after they’ve been used. After that, you may choose whether to recycle, resell, or remanufacture your items.
Get More Value from Your Waste
What can you recycle from end-of-life items and waste generated elsewhere in the supply chain? Are you utilizing all of your raw materials, for example, if you’re a food manufacturer? Is there anything left behind that could be utilized as a by-product for something else? Perhaps one of your by-products can be used by another company in a different sector. The goal is to utilize as much of your raw resources as possible in order to maximize revenues while reducing waste.
Get More Value from End-of-Use Products
What choices are available for a thing once it has served its purpose? Is it suitable for resale or reuse? It might be possible to repair, refurbish, or remanufacture it if it can’t be resold.
Inputs for processing: Look at your inputs for processing, such as water and electricity. Are you re-involving them in the process? Could you do it?
Could you combine your waste streams with those of other businesses in the area? As you gather more trash volume, this will change a cost into an income stream, and by bailing it up, you will make it worth something to a waste buyer.
Offcuts: What do you do with your offcuts if you work in discrete manufacturing? May they be utilized to make another product, or are there any offcuts that could be sold to other businesses?
Companies in the packaging sector, particularly plastic packaging producers, are being closely scrutinized. These businesses will have to consider new business models. Packaging industries will need to discover new ways to package or distribute their products as supermarkets promote packaging-free shopping. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers associated with packing, and it won’t be long until all items are supplied without it.
In a circular supply chain, all other supply chain firms should carefully examine their present business models to see if they, too, are facing extinction. You may need to reinvent yourself if you believe you are in danger.