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SBN and ‘Closing the Loop’

Thanks to the wonderful Sustainable Business Network and Lower Hutt’s Metal Art/RePlas for hosting a screening of ‘Closing the Loop’ by Prof. Dr Wayne Visser and Director Graham Sheldon.

Closing the Loop touches on the fundamentals of a circular economy, specifically drawing upon international examples under the themes of 1. Reduce, 2. Reuse, 3. Recycle, 4. Renew and 5. Reinvent. Rather than peddling their message in isolation Closing the Loop addresses the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, namely no. 12 ‘Responsible Consumption and Production.’ Importantly it doesn’t just explain the problem, it provides inspiring examples of solutions and with a proactive stance helps us understand our role within this as consumers, teachers, guardians and parents and business leaders.

If you don’t have time to watch the film here’s our take of the main learnings. You can also find out more here: http://www.closingtheloopfilm.com

Closing the Loop – an abridged version

“Unless we go to Circular it’s game over for the planet; it’s game over for society”

Dramatic words by Dr Visser. Words more pertinent than ever before, and currently echoed across the media by appearances by Sir David Attenborough. Closing the Loop states simply that we are facing an existential challenge.

…We’ll let that sink in a moment. This is a new industrial revolution where we don’t need new technology – it is already here. We need new thinking – circular thinking.

We need to change the model of the way we do business starting with your own people, then influencing the supply chain. We also need to think beyond short term profits, focusing on simple business sustainability and reinvesting profits.

‘Disruptive innovation’ can help. Great examples of sustainable businesses utilising – and profiting – through the circular economy model can be found across the globe. Closing the Loop highlights examples in South Africa, Netherlands, UK, Italy, Spain and even Quito in Ecuador! Redisa in S. Africa helps empower women and those in poverty to adopt paid roles as ‘transporters’ gathering waste. One man tells of how he grew up in the 70s burning tyres. Now he earns a living collecting them to be transformed into new products. ‘What motivates?’, he asks.’It’s about where you grew up and seeing the social, economic and environmental benefits that can be achieved by doing things differently.’

Ecopak in Quito finds opportunity in recycling TetraPak – separating the layers of plastic, film and card. ‘It can be hard to make people believe in an alternative if they haven’t seen it before’ one worker states. Wearever in the Netherlands even makes recycled suits!

We need to change our behaviours as consumers

We’ve lost sight of what makes us happy.

Our consumerist behaviour needs to change – no more cheap, lower quality, short lifespan products. As consumers we need to make sacrifices for longer term gain and consider ‘accessing’ the things we need rather than owning them. We are on a path of increased consumption – it is only recently in the history of humankind that we’ve been so wealthy we don’t need to think about reusing or recycling. Yet we’ve lost sight of what makes us happy.

Happiness is all too readily defined by owning loads of stuff – this is not ok. This does not make you happy. Body Shop’s CEO asks ‘why would you throw away something when it has value?’ Our forebears understood this – circular thinking goes back to simpler times of frugality. During the World Wars people understood the value of simple commodities, because they lived with fulfilling simple needs, simply. We need to educate our children in these values and help them understand it’s not the privilege of the few but the responsibility of us all.

Political leadership needs to take precedent over business leadership

Business leads because governments look too short term

But political leadership is needed. Governments must play their role through incentives like tax rebates, training skilled people, remanufacturing, and considering the environmental benefits to peoples health, resilience and wellbeing. Municipalities are the main actor in change. We can start local, demonstrate best practice and expand across regions.

Currently business leads because government looks too short term. Here business can reflect consumer needs and when companies work together benefits of synergies and scale can happen. Circular products can’t work in isolation within a linear model. It needs a shift to cradle to cradle. However businesses can benefit too through brand recognition and showing a savvy approach to conducting themselves. Price volatility within the supply chain can be countered through a circular model, helping towards business resilience. Importantly for a circular economy to work it needs to be affordable and thus accessible to all consumers. It cannot be confined to those who can afford an alternative option. It must be the only option.

Change starts today and it starts with you. It starts with your children because it is ultimately for them. It starts with our neighbours, colleagues, friends and business partners contributing towards a collective consciousness.

In the words of Dr Wayne Visser, ‘If we continue to act as a parasite, feeding upon the resources of the Earth, we know what happens to parasites… their hosts eventually wither and die. We must focus on what’s possible because change can happen fast. We can leave a positive footprint and be part of the solution. That’s our meaning. To make life flourish.

About Economate – Economate is proud to support the circular economy by connecting businesses and groups together to keep material out of landfill and subsequently reduce use of raw material. Think how your business could benefit from the circular model. Find out more about Economate at economate.co.nz

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