Whether it is purchasing recycling stations, clothes or any item in our day-to-day lives, it is ideal to keep a circular economy in mind. Embracing this transition has numerous benefits from decreasing waste and greenhouse gas emissions to saving raw resources—all while having a positive impact on the environment.
As the topics of recycled content and circular economy become increasingly popular, it is important for everyone from consumers, corporations, post-secondary institutions and municipalities to understand and find ways to embrace these two topics. One way these ideas can be supported is to create a waste diversion program that incorporates recycled content and encourages a circular economy.
This starts with the collection method and branches off into the type of materials collected, contamination and the amount of waste being diverted from the landfill. This can be accomplished by creating a waste diversion program that follows best practices in order to support a circular economy. Before we dive into how to achieve these, let’s learn more about recycled content and a circular economy.
What is Recycled Content?
Recycled content is made from materials that have been diverted from the landfill and are reused in the creation of new products. Recycled content can come from two different sources, pre-consumer and post-consumer materials. Pre-consumer material is diverted during the manufacturing process, whereas post-consumer materials are diverted from landfills once the consumer has already used the product. An example of post-consumer would be a milk jug tossed into the recycling after use and pre-consumer would be scrap plastic left over from the manufacturing of the milk jug.
Using recycled content has numerous benefits including supporting a circular economy, diverting material from the landfill and reducing the need for raw materials. It also gets consumers to think about what happens to their waste. It is easy for people to forget about the waste they generate; they place it in a garbage bag and it is brought to the curb. After a hauler picks it up, the waste disappears from the eyes of the consumer, it heads to the landfill and they never have to think about it again. This mentality is shifting with the introduction of recycled content because people now know where their waste is going and what it is being used for after it has left the curb.
Recycled Content and A Circular Economy
Using recycled content in the manufacturing of products supports a circular economy by closing the loop. It gives materials that otherwise would be tossed away a new life whether that be a toy, clothing or a recycling container. Currently, our society supports a linear economy with the idea that products are created, used and disposed. Supporting a circular economy shifts away from this idea and, instead, products are designed to increase resource productivity and gives the resources further value. It involves developing products that are recyclable and compostable while minimizing waste and the use of hazardous, non-recyclable materials. This transition will help save the finite resources the planet has, while addressing issues of climate change, species endangerment and greenhouse gas emissions.
Waste Diversion Program Supporting A Circular Economy
So how do you create a waste diversion program that supports a circular economy? It is important to note that making the decision to implement a waste and recycling program is the first step in supporting a circular economy. A next step could include selecting containers that are made with recycled content, ideally one that is 100 percent recycled content or one that contains post-consumer content. When picking a container or any item manufactured with recycled content, it is important to pick a supplier that is trustworthy and has third-party certified recycled materials. Other factors that should influence a consumer’s container decision is durability and if the product is built to last.
When selecting containers that follow recycling industry best practices, it increases the amount of material that is diverted from the landfill, reduces contamination and supports a circular economy. Stations that include multiple streams like mixed recycling and organics will increase diversion rates while influencing behavior to think about recycling before discarding waste. Signage that is tailored to one’s organizations and opts for icons and photos over just words will communicate to users and increase the effectiveness of a program. Restrictive openings on containers will suggest to users the items that are accepted in that stream. Best practices like signage, multiple streams and restrictive openings will increase the amount of materials recovered while decreasing waste entering the landfill.
Embracing the Transition
Whether it is purchasing recycling stations, clothes or any item in our day-to-day lives, it is ideal to keep a circular economy in mind. We are one step closer to transitioning from a linear economy, by altering shopping behaviors to look for items with recycled content or to consider the product’s end of life, whether it can be reused, recycled or composted. Embracing this transition has numerous benefits from decreasing waste and greenhouse gas emissions to saving raw resources all while having a positive impact on the environment.