Let’s go full circle and make waste redundant

No one really likes waste.  You know you have paid for something you really don’t want and it is a pain to get rid of.  But our economy has been based on the production of waste for too long – the ‘take-make-waste’ system is destroying our planet.

With this week being the European Week for Waste Reduction, we thought it would be a good idea to talk about our relationship with waste.

“Everything you own will one day become the property of this, the waste industry”, Oliver Franklin-Wallis, 2019.

We have all seen the dreadful videos and photos of sea water saturated with plastic, sea creatures bound up in fishermen’s nets and the plastic filled stomach contents of dying whales.  These very distressing images have had an impact and many people actively avoid single use plastics as a result.  But it is the system that needs to change.

Is plastic recycling a myth?

We may also be aware of the failures of our recycling schemes.  Greenpeace investigations have revealed that after all our hard work sorting waste and lugging bins down to the road, thousands of tonnes of our household plastic packaging put out for recycling, as well as other kinds of plastic waste, ends up in waste incinerators in the UK.

Incinerators are giant furnaces for burning waste, and they cause air pollution, noise, smells, litter and additional traffic. Some waste also goes into landfill, where it can leach toxic chemicals into the environment.  Greenpeace says that well over half of the household plastic packaging the Government claims is recycled is sent abroad – most of it going to countries with very low recycling rates where there are also serious problems with plastic waste being dumped or burned illegally (Greenpeace, 2021).  These are all stark illustrations of the serious flaws in our linear production systems – waste is a huge white elephant at the end of the line.

Can the circular economy work?

So, what about alternatives?  Can our traditional approach to production economics really be upended?  Can we trash our existing economic model of ‘take, make, throw away’, in which resources are extracted, turned into products, used, and discarded?

This is where the circular economy comes in.  Chatham House researchers explain that the circular economy “entails redesigning products to be more durable, reusable, repairable, and recyclable, and therefore kept in circulation for as long as possible. Beyond product design innovations, it also means changing the way we consume and use goods and services, and rethinking consumerism as a society”.

These are big changes, and some will question whether the circular economy really stands a chance in today’s world.  But The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, which promotes circular systems, has a raft of examples of companies that have already signed up for the waste free production process.  These include multi-nationals like Renault, banks, investment funds and health technology producers.  It is important to recognise the growth potential organisations see in adopting this new economic model – those companies have started to embrace the circular economy as a way of capturing new forms of value, building resilience and achieving social and environmental targets.

Is Greenscents part of the circular system?

Greenscents was built on green economic principles right from the start, but for a very small company it is difficult to become entirely waste free.  For instance, in rural West Somerset where the business is based, we have only recently had access to business recycling facilities.

On the plus side, Greenscents is housed in one of the most environmentally friendly industrial estates in the UK with full BREEAM certification.  We even draw our water from an on-site bore hole. You may not be aware, but on our website home page if you scroll to the bottom, you can see a tab called ‘policies’.  If you click on there you will find the Greenscents Carbon Management Plan and the 2020 Environmental Statement.  Greenscents is also an ISO 14001 registered company which means we have an environmental management system in place.

“We are very proud of our unique return & refill service”, Peter Hawkes, Greenscents founder.

What about Greenscents products?  How do our customers become part of the circular economy? 

Greenscents offers a unique return & refill scheme which is available to our trade and personal customers.

This service is free to all our personal customers.  So next time you need to top up your household products don’t forget to order a collection for your containers as well.  When your containers arrive back at the Greenscents workshop, we will check that they have no dents or marks. When we are happy that the containers can be reused, we will wash them out with organic vinegar and rinse carefully with a power hose. Once your containers have been checked and cleaned, they will be ready for reuse. We always use new caps with returned containers. Your returns will be used at least 20 times!

Join the circular system with Greenscents and support the European Week for Waste Reduction which is highlighting circular communities this year https://ewwr.eu/.

Further Reading

https://www.greenpeace.org.uk/news/plastic-recycling-export-incineration/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/aug/17/plastic-recycling-myth-what-really-happens-your-rubbish

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2021/05/22/three-reasons-recycling-is-failing/?sh=340197e7e09f

https://www.chathamhouse.org/2021/06/what-circular-economy

https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview