I could write an endless list of incredible companies that have adopted circular strategies in their organization to make a shift towards the circular economy. But how they achieved those feats isn't just because of their innovative systems, it all starts with being innovative in their thinking.
That innovation being: waste doesn't have to exist if you think of everything as a resource.
All materials hold potential value, but we too often will immediately write them off as waste. This leads to the unintended effect of seeing that material in a negative way and thinking it no longer has any purpose.
While it is important that companies look into their waste-management streams and continue to set recycling goals, these actions are still ending the lifecycle of a material pre-maturely.
We need a new system in place for companies to deal with the waste resources they are left with.
How can we enable people to look at a material and think "what other value does this have? what other opportunities can I or someone else make from this?" rather than thinking "what's the most sustainable way of disposing of this?"
I wonder what impact it would make if we stopped labeling things as waste altogether and instead looked at everything as just another material. I believe it would open us up to an abundance of innovative ideas just by re-evaluating the name we use when talking about these materials.
Ottan Studio is a great example of how rethinking the purpose of materials can lead to great innovations and new products. The Turkey-based company collects food and garden "waste" and uses those materials to create beautiful home furniture and decor.
Most people would probably look at food waste like orange peels and think to either throw it away or hopefully at least compost it. But what if it's not really waste yet?
By using orange peels as a material we save another kind of resource from entering the cycle. Ie. instead of using wood to create furniture, we can instead use up something that has already been used and try to extend its lifespan.
So, now what?:
I challenge you to rethink the "trash" you throw out and instead label it in your mind as "resources" or "materials." If we can change how we label these things, we can make a difference in the way we perceive them and therefore use them as well.
It all comes down to a shift in how we think about things.
Using systems thinking is a great way of going about this change of mindset. It helps us see the world from a different perspective - in a way where we understand how everything is connected in systems.
This article here highlights how thinking in systems will help you unlock those less-immediately obvious solutions, such as, what else is possible instead of just recycling. I highly suggest giving it a read!
If we all make the effort to innovate the way we think about ourselves, our place on this Earth, and how we use the resources we have, I think we will be well equipped to innovate the actual systems and strategies needed to make the shift to a circular economy.