Why Circular Economies Will Become
words by Tom Filmer
It’s not a matter of if, but when.
Increased consumer awareness and pressure for businesses to become more sustainable provides some companies with a point of difference. As this pressure builds, it will reach a tipping point where companies will need to operate sustainably or they’ll receive public backlash.
It’s at this point where companies will need to rethink sustainability, and instead of it being a point of difference, let it be a culture. It’s more than providing a feel-good feeling for the consumer; it’s about instituting a belief that “it’s what should be done”.
Removal of the linear economy for good, and the adoption of a circular economy
In the natural environment everything is cyclical. Resources flow, so one’s waste is another’s resource, and at the end of it all, one returns to the soil as nutrients, sustainably.
However, as consumers, we’ve adopted an ‘acquire, utilise and dispose of’ mentality which results in a linear economy and in turn leaves an abundance of resources which are disposed of as waste.
“Recycling?”, I hear you say.
A recently- published NZ Herald article states that China wll no longer purchase the majority of New Zealand's recycling.
Since January, it has stopped taking 24 types of recyclables. This has collapsed the New Zealand recycling industry.
Don’t get me wrong; recycling has its place, but only if:
· there isn’t any other viable option that adds more value;
· it is built into a circular economy;
· or is, in fact, recycled.
Waste elimination through company collaboration
One way to combat the global recycling problem is to create circular economies which emulate the natural environment.
Some businesses see this as a liability or an increased risk, through limiting the scope of their business, but at the end of the day, the only limitation is creativity.
The change doesn’t have to be to an internal circular economy. It could be as simple as investigating what businesses currently dispose large amounts of, and tracking where it ends up.
If it's in a landfill, then reassess alternatives, and evaluate the options.
One of the first steps is acknowledging more can be done. There will always be a point where creating waste will be an option, and admittedly, in some cases, it will be the most cost-effective one. What if the products you sell today could be utilised as resources or inputs for others, in the future? It’s more than looking at a cost comparison; it’s a matter of why.
All about the why
Everything has its purpose. Why do you get up each morning? Why do you do what you do? Moreover, it’s asking these questions that builds culture within an organisation. It’s something that has to be embraced. It’s a way of thinking.
The businesses for which I work have this motto built directly into their company values: “We believe in being resourceful, in making the most of what we’ve been given.”
It’s this culture, and ‘our why’ of thinking that breeds a culture of creativity and idea generation.
One of the ways Azwood Energy operates a circular economy is going beyond acting sustainably and taking it a step further.
Our utilisation of wood residues is already a form of reusing waste material.
However, transforming this waste into usable, world-class products can only mean a step in the right direction for a business, long term.
Here at Azwood, one of our circular economy journeys begins at the local forests, of which the Nelson region has an abundance. We work closely with relevant sectors to help limit the slash left over after logging operations have been completed.
We utilise this slash, along with other wood waste residues, to provide New Zealand with carbon neutral wood energy suitable for schools, hospitals and other medium to large organisations.
Similarly, Azwood Energy makes the most of timber mill waste, such as sawdust, to provide homes and other residential buildings with our Firetime and Onfire Premium wood pellets.
In some cases, once Azwood’s wood energy has been utilised, the very minimal ash content that is produced is recovered and used in dedicated organic media products. It’s this organic media, and other landscaping products, that then grow the pine seedlings to provide forest plantations for the region and beyond.
These are just some of many ways Azwood Energy works, through circular economies, to act with corporate social responsibility.