Build a circular economy
Last week, Rubicon® announced the release of our company's first Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report. If you haven’t downloaded the report yet, I encourage you to download it now to learn more about what Rubicon is doing to change the entire waste and recycling category.
The world waste crisis requires us to rethink the future.
Our linear economy focuses on the short-term, leading to more waste and more environmental impact than at any time in human history. According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, in 2017, the United States generated more than 267 million tons of solid waste, or about 4.5 pounds per person per day. About half of the materials are recyclable.
Since 2018, after China has drastically reduced the amount of recyclable materials it is willing to accept, most of the materials recycled in the past in the United States have been shipped back to China. Many municipalities lack the recycling infrastructure to utilize this material, which means they now have to pay to transport it to other places or store it in a landfill.
The more we produce, the more we consume, and the more waste we create. We must move towards a more "circular" economy. We must start to treat recyclable materials as a resource-moving from the end of the linear economy to the front end of the circular economy.
Circular economy is based on the long-term: allow the market to make the production and management of resources more in line with nature, without waste. All elements can play a role and be reused continuously. The transition to a circular economy not only has environmental benefits, but also provides economic opportunities and builds long-term resilience.
Three strategies are needed to realize a circular economy:
Waste is a design flaw. Therefore, we can start by "designing" waste from our consumer products, especially packaging-the single largest source of plastic waste. Only 9% of all plastics manufactured are recycled, one of the reasons is that it is difficult to recycle. Unlike paper or glass, many plastics are not easily reshaped into other products, and most of our plastic bottles and packaging are simply thrown into landfills — or worse, our waterways.
Eliminating the use of toxic chemicals also contributes. Anything that cannot be recycled or has a negative impact on the environment is an obstacle to the circular economy. By eliminating toxic waste, we reduce the need for special waste disposal and the waste itself.
Designing products for a circular economy means packaging and materials that are recyclable, compostable or consumable. If the product itself is also recyclable or reusable, so much the better.
Think about the opportunity to destroy an existing, wasting system. Just like the milkman who put fresh milk at the door and refilled the jars that you used in the past, the producers who are the first to enter the circular economy will design reusable and recyclable products to reap financial returns. benefit.
The circular economy also requires durability. We need to use our products and materials longer. We must get rid of the addiction to the planned obsolescence of products, these products can easily make us last several years or longer, no longer think about the "end of life". This starts from the producer, by designing products that are used and reused throughout the life cycle, rather than deliberately shortening the product cycle.
As consumers, we must also do our part. Everything we consume contains carbon (energy and emissions related to its production). The longer we use the product, the longer we will prevent more carbon from entering the atmosphere. Less and less waste products (and their packaging) enter our landfills.
Imagine you use a cell phone for ten years instead of two years. Or appliances that can be repaired instead of replaced. Remember the TV commercial about the Maytag repairman, he had nothing to do because their electrical appliances were so good. Today's repairmen are closing down because it is cheaper to replace the product than to repair it. But what happens when the appliance is broken? They are discarded, adding more material to our landfill.
We can break this cycle, resume work, and reduce waste at the same time.
We need to compost and build other regeneration systems.
For example, we need to solve the problem of food waste. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, about 1.6 billion tons of food are wasted every year, and almost all of the food goes to landfills. However, if this organic material can be preserved rather than discarded, it can be composted and its carbon content can be returned to the soil. Food waste can also be used for bioplastics or converted into bio-based fuels. That is a regeneration system.
Home composting is the first step. By putting your food waste in the compost bin, you can prevent it from entering the landfill. Expanding the scale of food manufacturers and restaurants can eliminate nearly 15% of waste generated in the United States alone.
Gone are the days when we could mass produce, consume and process everything in large quantities, without having to care about what happens at the beginning and end of our economic cycle. The damage to our environment caused by over-exploitation of resources is approaching an irreversible level. The large amount of waste generated by our economy harms health and reduces productivity, because municipalities now have to pay for the disposal of waste that was once recyclable.
In the circulatory system, waste is reduced to nearly zero. Biodegradable materials are returned to the environment, and non-biodegradable materials are reused. The landfill is a thing of the past. And significantly reduce the pollution of our environment by non-recyclable waste.
This is the future of waste and the future we must all strive to achieve.
Nate Morris is the founder and CEO of Rubicon.To stay ahead of the new global partnerships and cooperation announced by Rubicon, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us immediately.