Tag: sustainability

9 Ways to Reduce Your Packaging Use

9 Ways to Reduce Your Daily Packaging Use

These days it’s common knowledge that excess packaging is a bad thing. And you probably don’t need us to give you a list of reasons why. So instead, we’ve made this list of practical things you can do to minimise your daily packaging consumption. You don’t have to do all of them, honestly, doing even one or two will have a positive impact. We know from experience; even the smallest changes by many of us, can really add up to make a huge difference.

1. Bring Your Own (Non-Plastic) Bag

This might be one of the easiest things you can do to significantly cut down your packaging use.

Grab a tote bag, a net bag, a cotton bag, pretty much any reusable bag not made from plastic, and bring it with you whenever you go to the shops. Every time you do this, you’ll avoid needlessly consuming another bag.

Grey tote bag containing apples on white carpet.

2. Keep Your Fruit and Veg Loose (Or in Your Own Bag)

Buying fruit and veg in the supermarket?

Always best to go for the loose option instead of the pre-packaged option. The pre-packed carrots in the plastic bag are usually the same price by weight as the loose ones, and this is the case for most of the other pre-packed items too. 

Most fruit and veg have their own natural protective layer anyway, and you’ll be washing them before eating right? So just leave them loose, or bring your own bags to put them in if you prefer.

An assortment of fruit and veg on white surface.

3. Buy Larger Units Instead of Multiple Small Ones

For anything that won’t expire in the near future, buy the largest option available. Multiple smaller units usually always involve more packaging than a single larger unit.*

Supermarket shelves stocked with different sized soft drinks.

4. Use Reusables

Grabbing a coffee on the go, or in need of a bottle of water to re-hydrate? If you bring a reusable along with you, you can fill it up without the need for packaging.

Our reusable coffee cups and reusable water bottles go a step further when it comes to reducing packaging, as we make them out of discarded single-use coffee cups and plastic bottles.

And no need to stop there! If you’re picking up food at the deli counter, why not bring your own tubs and enjoy a packaging-free meal? You could also use reusable beeswax sandwich wraps if you’re grabbing (or making) a sandwich.

And when it comes to cutlery, your cutlery drawer at home has all the packaging-free answers. Pop a knife and fork in your bag every time you go out, and you’ll never have to use single-use cutlery again. 

Circular&Co. reusable water bottle range arranged on wooden shelf.

5. Reconsider ‘Best Before’ Dates

When a food item passes its best before date, it might have moved past its ‘optimal condition’, but it’s still perfectly safe to eat. So don’t throw it out!

Less food thrown out, means less food bought, means less packaging used.

(If something’s past its ‘use by’ date, don’t eat it, as it may not be safe. There’s a big difference between ‘best before’ and ‘use by’.)

Lady in supermarket reading label on chocolate muffin packaging.

6. Actually Empty Containers Fully

There’s often a little bit of toothpaste left in the tube when we throw it out, or a little ketchup left in the bottle. So roll the tube from the bottom, take the top off the ketchup bottle and get scraping. Do whatever you can to use the full contents of every item you buy.

It all adds up. Over time you’ll end up buying less, which means less packaging used.

Blue toothpaste tube with some white toothpaste coming out of top.

7. Cook With Local Produce Instead of Ready-Made Meals

Ready-made meals are usually heavy on the packaging, local/fresh produce, not so much. So whenever possible, cook with local produce.

Not only will this help you cut down on your packaging consumption, it will benefit you and your community in other ways too. 

Local produce is usually always better for your health, because it’s fresher, and therefore is likely to contain more nutrients. And buying local is also better for your community’s health because it helps to support your local economy.

When it comes to your carbon footprint, local produce doesn’t have to travel as far, so there are carbon-related benefits here as well.

Cashier handing customer an apple at a farmer's market.

8. Use Your Local Refill Shop

Of course, by far one of the most effective ways to significantly reduce your packaging consumption is to shop at your local refill/zero-waste store.

These stores offer a packaging-free solution for goods like pasta, cereals, cleaning products, cosmetics and many others. Just bring your own reusable container with you, and get what you need without all the needless packaging.

Glass jars filled with seeds on table in a refill shop.

9. Buy Less Stuff, Buy Circular

By taking any of the actions mentioned above, we can all quite easily reduce the amount of packaging we go through in day-to-day life.

But the truth is, if you don’t buy the thing in the first place, you won’t have to worry about the packaging at all.

So another great way to minimise your packaging use is; only buy what you really need.

And if you do really need something, searching for circular alternatives like our reusable water bottle is never a bad idea.

Revolut Visa card sitting on grey laptop keyboard.

*Regarding larger product units containing less packaging than multiple smaller units, an example of this is given here:

“Compare, say, two cylindrical containers, one that holds 32 ounces (a quart) and another holding eight ounces (a cup) that have the same shape, i.e., the same ratio of diameter to height. To match the volume of the quart-size container, you’ll need four of the smaller, cup-capacity ones, and they’ll require about 60 per cent more plastic to hold as much as the one big container. This is because there is not a constant ratio of surface area to volume.”

This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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10 Examples That Show What a Difference Small Changes Can Make

10 Examples That Show What a Difference Small Changes Can Make.

We Can All Be Difference Makers

The 10 examples below really bring it home; we can all make a significant difference in this world. Even through simple changes like embracing a circular product over a disposable one.

The circular product in question? That would be our Circular Reusable Coffee Cup.

We’ve designed this cup to help you make the biggest difference with the littlest effort. Each circular cup we produce:

  • Is made out of 6 discarded single-use cups.
  • Is designed for 10 years of use.
  • Can be 100% recycled into a new circular cup 6 times. (Meaning 60 years of total use per cup)
  • Can be mixed with fresh recycled material after this initial 60 years to make even more reusable cups.

Simply by picking up your daily dose of the hot stuff in our cup instead of a disposable, you can reduce your carbon footprint, limit pollution, and consume less raw materials.

2 million people have already made the switch in the 4 years we’ve been selling our circular cup. Which means roughly 12 million disposable cups have been diverted from landfill, incineration, or polluting the planet already!

And that’s only counting the discarded cups we used to make our reusables. Really, the positive impact is much higher. We hope the examples below will convince you to join us in expanding this positive impact even further.

10 Examples of (Potential) Impact

The truth is, one person can make a difference. And when we get the people around us involved, that difference can become very significant indeed. Just look at all the weird and wonderful things we can achieve.

*See below to learn about how these examples were calculated.

1. One Whole Year Being a Fully Grown Tree

Lone deciduous tree in green field with blue sky behind.

Ever wanted to become a fully grown tree for a year? (Yeah, us too!)

Well, maybe you can do just that! All you’ve got to do is get yourself one of our circular cups, and use it for the full 10 years it’s designed to last. Instead of using disposable cups of course.

Based on UK averages, this would reduce your carbon footprint by about 21.12kg. Which is roughly the same amount of CO2 a mature tree removes from the atmosphere each year.

2. Four Basketballs Worth of Pollution

NBA basketball sitting in pile of autumn leaves.

Reducing your emissions isn’t the only reason to make the switch to circular coffee cups.

If a family of 5 in the UK decided to make the switch for just a single year, they would prevent 2.5kg of disposable coffee cups from ending up as rubbish. This is slightly more than the combined weight of 4 NBA basketballs. (Not sure if you’ve ever played basketball, but those balls are pretty heavy!)

3. Five Large Beer Kegs Full of Disposable Cups

Metal beer kegs packed together tightly.

If you somehow managed to convince the starting 11 of your local football team to ditch disposable cups in favour of circular ones, in just one year, they’d be able to fill over 5 large beer kegs with all the disposable cups they’d avoided.

Surely they’d deserve some sort of trophy for that? (As long as it’s designed for circularity of course!)

4. Land’s End to John O’ Groats Over 14.5 Times!

Road sign at John' O Groats pointing to Land's End and New York.

The examples so far have been somewhat impressive, but it’s when we start getting the whole community involved that we really start seeing results.

Let’s imagine you manage to convince 2000 people in your local community to make the switch to the Circular Reusable Coffee Cup. In just one year, this would reduce their carbon footprint by a collective 3,360kg. This is roughly the same amount of CO2 you’d emit by driving a medium-sized diesel car from Land’s End to John O’ Groats over 14.5 times!

For anyone who might not know, that means driving from the very bottom of England, to the most northerly point of Scotland.

5. Nearly Two and a Half Giant Panda’s Weight in Rubbish

Close up of Giant Panda eating bamboo in the jungle.

You might not believe it, but when it comes to having a positive collective impact on the environment, even the politicians can get involved!

If all 650 MPs in the House of Commons were to make the circular switch for just a year, they could prevent 325kg worth of disposable coffee cups from becoming rubbish. This is nearly equivalent to what 2 and a half fully-grown male Giant Pandas weigh.

6. Two and a Half Olympic Swimming Pools Full of Disposable Cups

Side view of swimmers competing in an olympic swimming pool.

The UK is a busy place. Lots of people coming, lots of people going.

But if the people who pass through Heathrow airport on just a single average day all switched to circular coffee cups for a year, over 2 and a half Olympic swimming pools full of disposable cups could be saved. That’s roughly 6,078 cubic metres of disposable coffee cups!

7. Eight Fully Grown Humpback Whales of Pollution

A school of four humpback whales poking their heads above the water's surface.

Here at Circular&Co. we’re based in Cornwall in the south of England. It’s a truly beautiful place, but we know it could be more beautiful. If everybody in Cornwall used our Circular Reusable Coffee Cup instead of disposables for a year, it would be!

If that happened, 282,984kg of coffee cup-shaped pollution would be avoided. Now that is a whole lot of disposable coffee cups considering their weight.

It’s also nearly equivalent to the average weight of 8 fully grown humpback whales. As we’re based by the sea, we can’t tell you how much it would mean to us to remove that much pollution from the ocean. 

8. Over 152,000 Fully Grown Trees Worth of Clean Air

Coniferous forest in Autumn with clouds above.

As we mentioned before, since we started selling the Circular Reusable Coffee Cup 4 years ago, we have sold over 2 million cups. Preventing about 12 million disposable cups from ending up in the landfill, incineration, or as pollution.

And if the 2 million wonderful folks who bought our cups have used them instead of disposables for just 1 year, it means about 3,360,000kg of carbon emissions have been avoided. This is about the same amount of CO2 that 152,727 fully grown trees would remove from the atmosphere in a year.

Safe to say, we are very proud of these numbers so far. But you can help us make them even better!

9. 850,000,000 Lightbulbs

Dark room full of illuminated hanging lightbulbs.

So we’ve seen that even one person can have a significant impact over time by making a simple change. And when we get families, communities, and whole counties involved, that impact really does start to make a difference.

But what if we could convince just 1 in 10 people in the UK to make the switch to circular cups? And to use the cups for the full 10 years we’ve designed them to last.

Doesn’t that actually sound feasible? And what would that look like?

Well, if this were to happen, it would prevent 29,630,190kg of disposable coffee cups from ending up as waste. This is roughly equivalent to the weight of 850,000,000 standard 60-watt lightbulbs!

If that doesn’t make a lightbulb go off in your head, we’re not sure what will!

10. 181 Royal Albert Halls Full of Coffee Cups

View of the Royal Albert Hall stage from direct facing balcony.

And what if a lightbulb went off in everyone’s head? What if every single person in the UK switched from disposable cups to our Circular Reusable Coffee Cup? For the full 10 years it’s designed to last?

Amazingly, if people in the UK did decide to ditch disposable cups for 10 years, you could pack 15,738,900 cubic meters full with the cups that would go unused. That’s enough space to fill up the Royal Albert Hall over 181 times!

That is an absolutely humongous pile of disposable coffee cups. And all of these cups will end up in our landfills, oceans, rivers, or incinerated into our atmosphere if we don’t make this kind of change.

It’s such a simple thing to do; use a circular reusable instead of a disposable. And if we all do it, over time, the difference we can make together really is astounding.

*How We Calculated These Examples

Here are the stats and figures we used to calculate these examples. If you choose to make the calculations yourself, we’re pretty sure they will add up!:

  • People in the UK get through at least 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups each year. And only 2.8% of these are recycled.
  • This means that, as the UK has an estimated population of about 68.43m people, every single person in the UK on average uses roughly 35.5 — never to be recycled — disposable coffee cups a year. Or roughly, 0.1 coffee cups each day. (This is the figure we used when describing the impact 1, 5, 11 etc people can have by making the switch.)
  • An average disposable coffee cup has a carbon footprint equivalent to up to 60.9 grams of carbon dioxide.
  • Our Circular Reusable Coffee Cup has a carbon footprint of 480 grams.
  • An average 12oz cup weighs 12 grams. (12oz is your standard medium-sized coffee)
  • You can fit roughly 1300 disposable cups into one cubic metre. (We actually tried this before, and when you randomly throw disposable coffee cups into a container that’s exactly one cubic metre in volume, you can fit about 1300 in there.)

This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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Could ‘Returnables’ Be the Future of Coffee?

Be the Future
of Coffee?

Changing Coffee in a Changing World

The world is falling out of love with single-use plastic.

In fact, according to a global survey published just last month, three-quarters of people across 28 countries agree that single-use plastic should be banned as soon as possible.

And in the EU, England, and beyond, bans on some single-use plastic items have already been implemented.

So what does all this mean when it comes to grabbing your morning coffee? (Or afternoon coffee, or maybe even evening coffee; we know how much you love the stuff!)

Pile of rubbish on the ground up against a tree, mainly consisting of disposable coffee cups.

Maybe changing the way we drink coffee on the go could be a good thing? Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash.

It could be that soon, the days of grabbing a coffee on the go in a disposable cup will be over.

There is no legislation in place yet in the EU or the UK for specifically banning disposable coffee cups, but there is in some places.

And we think there’s a very good chance this idea might just catch on.

(If you read on, you will find that this certainly doesn’t need to be a bad thing. The future of coffee is upon us!)

Are Disposable Coffee Cups Already on Their Way Out?

According to the EU’s single-use plastics directive, by 2030, all plastic packaging placed on the Union market must be ‘reusable or easily recycled’.

And because the majority of disposable coffee cups are lined with plastic and are currently difficult to recycle, this means the coffee cup — in the EU at least — will require a redesign/rethink in the coming years. Beyond the EU, it’s happening too.

In both Western Australia and the Netherlands it’s already been decided that disposable plastic coffee cups will be banned by 2023.

Similar bans on disposable coffee cups are also strongly being considered in the UK and New Zealand. And in San Francisco in the US, many of the cafes themselves have decided enough is enough when it comes to the disposable cup, requiring customers to use reusables and returnables instead.

In San Francisco there are many examples of coffee shops taking the initiative and banning disposable cups outright. These brands and cafes have decided to make their own law!

Nip over to Vancouver in Canada, or Berkeley in California right now, and you won’t find that disposable cups have been outright banned, but you will have to pay a 25 cent added charge for every disposable cup you use. (They want people to stop using them!)

So could it be that the coffee bean-shaped dominoes are already starting to fall? And that disposable coffee cups are destined to soon become a thing of the past?

It definitely does look like a real possibility. But, particularly in the EU and the UK, is it going to become the law any time soon?

What is the Legislation on this exactly?

In the EU

The EU has actually already banned some beverage containers.

As part of the single-use plastics directive, in July 2021, 10 single-use plastic items were banned across the EU. This ban included beverage containers made from expanded polystyrene, and all products made of ‘oxo-degradable’ plastic.

But because the majority of disposable coffee cups are now made from paper with a polyethylene lining (not polystyrene), they were not included in this ban. (Plastic is a whole lot more complicated than you’d think isn’t it?)

So does the EU have any plans to outright ban disposable plastic coffee cups in the near future?

Quite simply, the answer to that is no, not as yet.

The ‘European Strategy for Plastics’ was adopted in 2018 to ensure that all new plastic packaging in the EU is ‘reusable or easily recycled’ by 2030, but there is nothing specific in there about how member states must achieve this.

So some member states might decide that a ban is the best option, while others are free to look for alternative solutions.

In the UK

It seems the UK government is strongly considering taking action on disposable coffee cups, but the exact action to be taken is yet undecided. So an absolute ban is, for now, only one possibility.

The UK’s ‘25-Year Environment Plan’ seeks to ‘eliminate all avoidable plastic waste’ by the end of 2042.’ (We can probably all agree that waste from disposable coffee cups is definitely avoidable!) (And that 2042 is maybe not the most ambitious target).

Back in the present though, the UK government has recently launched a ‘call for evidence’ to help them address sources of plastic pollution. This call only closed last month, and was aimed at ‘gathering further evidence’ on problematic plastic items such as wet wipes, tobacco filters, sachets, and disposable coffee cups.

The results of this call for evidence will ‘help inform future policy making’.

So it seems the UK government is strongly considering taking action on disposable coffee cups, but the exact action to be taken is yet undecided. So an absolute ban is, for now, only one possibility.

(But by 2042, at least, disposable coffee cups in the UK should no longer end up as waste!)

Something’s Gotta Give

Overhead view of three white coffee cups lined up side-by-side on white surface.

Change is important. And one thing’s for sure, things will need to change in the coffee world if plastic waste reduction targets are to be met. Photo by Sina Asgari on Unsplash.

Throughout the EU and the UK, there is no guarantee that we will see outright bans on disposable coffee cups any time soon. But if either’s eventual target of eliminating plastic waste is to be reached, something will certainly have to change.

In the UK alone we manage to get through 2.5 billion disposable cups every year, most of which aren’t recycled! So the current reality simply doesn’t match up with the new plastic waste-free world both the EU and the UK are planning for.

So what are all the possible solutions here? What will drinking coffee look like in this new and wasteless world?

What Might Drinking Coffee Look Like in This New World?

If the ultimate goal is for all plastic packaging to eventually be reusable or easily recycled, eliminating all unnecessary waste, what are the possible solutions when it comes to coffee cups?

Well the way we see it, really there are three possible options. (And one clear winner if you ask us!)

Potential Solutions

1. Switch from Disposable Plastic Cups to Compostable/Biodegradable Alternatives:

Green compost bin, red waste bin, and yellow recycling bin lined up side-by-side.

Most compostables and biodegradables are not as sustainable as you think. Most of the time, you can’t just throw them in the compost bin at home!

If disposable plastic coffee cups are causing so much pollution, why not just switch to compostable or biodegradable disposables? That way the switch would be seamless. We could all carry on getting our coffee in the same way, only it would be in a cup that naturally dissolves back into the earth when we discard it. Right!? No waste involved!?

Well, unfortunately that is rarely the case when it comes to these ‘sustainable’ disposables.

Issues With Compostable/Biodegradable Disposables:
  • To begin with, even with compostable and biodegradable disposables, resources are required every time one of these items is produced. Each item must be manufactured and transported — using up energy and creating emissions — only for the item to be used once. These plastic-free disposables still perpetuate throwaway culture, and really are far from ‘sustainable.’
  • Many compostable or biodegradable items only actually break down under very specific conditions. Simply chucking them on your compost heap at home or into the bushes is not going to do the trick here! Industrial composting facilities are often required for these items, and these facilities are not always widely available. Meaning many are likely to end up in a landfill.
  • For most of these items, if they do end up in a landfill, they will release methane as they break down. And methane is not a good thing to be releasing if we want to mitigate climate change!
  • Compostable and biodegradable plastics can also interfere with the recycling process for regular plastics if they get mixed in with them. (Which happens more than you might think!)

Because of all this, Zero Waste Europe has advised that if market restrictions are imposed on items like disposable coffee cups; ‘there must be no exceptions for bio-based or compostable products, and the shift should focus on promoting reusable alternatives rather than to another single-use material.’

Greenpeace has also championed ‘reusable and refillable’ systems as the best solution to the plastic crisis.

So maybe it’s time we move on to the next possible solution!

2. Make Disposable Plastic Coffee Cups Easy to Recycle:

Two volunteers sorting glass, paper, and plastic items into clear boxes for recycling.

Would it be feasible to redesign existing recycling systems to cater for disposable coffee cups? Photo by cottonbro.

As we’ve already seen, most disposable coffee cups today are made from paper, and lined with polyethylene. This is precisely what makes them so difficult to recycle.

To recycle the cups, the lining must first be separated from the cup, and this process is complex and expensive. This means recycling them just isn’t currently feasible, so the majority of the cups end up in a landfill somewhere.

One way to get around this could be to re-design recycling infrastructure to make recycling the cups easier. Or possibly provide financial incentives for recyclers to recycle the cups. This way we could avoid unnecessary plastic waste by ensuring all the cups get recycled?

Now we don’t claim to be experts on this, but we would imagine both of these solutions would be very expensive, very time consuming, or both! And it’s probably unlikely that anyone’s going to completely re-design recycling infrastructure just for the sake of coffee cups. And there’s also no guarantee that people would actually recycle the cups even if they were easy to recycle!

If we’re totally honest, we actually make reusables from discarded coffee cups, and we’d still prefer if there were no discarded cups for us to use! We’d prefer if there were no single-use coffee cups around at all. We would simply make our reusables from the next waste stream that needs diverting from landfill or incineration instead.

So this option feels like a bit of a no-go to us. (And remember the good folks at Greenpeace and Zero Waste Europe did say it’s time to move on from disposables!)

If we’re totally honest, we actually make reusables from discarded coffee cups, and we’d still prefer if there were no discarded cups for us to use!

Hmmmm. Maybe there’s a much better solution in here somewhere???

3. Make Returnables and Deposit Return Schemes the Norm:

Coffee beans arranged in a love heart shape on a light brown table.

Sharing is caring, and caring is love. How about we embrace returnables ASAP and start spreading around some love? Between people, and planet! Photo by Merve Sehirli Nasir on Unsplash.

How about, we follow the advice of Greenpeace and Zero Waste Europe, and ditch disposables altogether in favour of reusables? (Even if disposables aren’t banned by law yet, it doesn’t mean we can’t ban them ourselves!)

By using a reusable cup every time we grab a coffee, it would eliminate all that unnecessary waste. It would also fall in line with the long-term plans of both the UK and the EU.

Sounds like the perfect solution, but there is one major issue; convenience.

Bringing your own reusable cup with you every time you fancy grabbing a coffee just doesn’t seem feasible. Going for coffee can often be such a spontaneous thing, so unless you have your reusable cup literally glued to yourself, you’re just not always going to have it with you.

That’s where ‘deposit return schemes’ and ‘returnables’ come in.

Deposit Return Schemes

A deposit return scheme — in the context of a coffee shop — is a system where you pay a small deposit for a returnable (and reusable) cup. You can then enjoy your tasty beverage, and return the cup when you’re done with it. There are many different ways that this might work!

Here’s a few real-world examples to give you an idea:

  • At Circular&Co. we have been helping McDonald’s run trials recently in the UK where customers pay £1 for a returnable cup. Customers can then bring the cup back to any McDonald’s participating in the trial to receive their deposit back.
  • We’ve also developed reusables for Burger King and Tim Horton’s who are running similar trials in the US, Canada, USA and Japan.
  • In Freiburg in Germany you can pay a deposit for your cup in on cafe and then return it to nearly any other cafe in town. As multiple independent cafes are participating in the same deposit return scheme!
  • Returnable cups for free!: We are even working with companies looking to offer returnable cups for free! All you have to do as a consumer is place the cups in a bin once you’re done with them. Not even a recycling bin, just a regular old bin! See because we’ve placed an RFID chip inside these cups, the local waste contractor can easily scan and separate them. They can then just place them back into the return scheme system to be used again. (After sanitizing them of course!)

It’s possible for the consumer to pick up their coffee on the go as normal in a returnable cup. Then dispose of that cup in a regular bin, without actually creating any plastic waste!

And that’s the beauty of blending RFID technology with returnable cups. This allows the whole deposit return scheme experience to be digitised. The cups can easily be tracked across the supply chain and returned with minimal effort from the consumer. Meaning it’s possible for the consumer to pick up their coffee on the go as normal in a returnable cup. Then dispose of that cup in a regular bin, without actually creating any plastic waste! Now surely that’s about as convenient as it can get, for people, and planet.

This tech also allows consumers to be rewarded for their actions. The cup can be tracked, and linked to your profile on an app. So you can be rewarded for helping to minimise plastic waste. (One free cup of coffee for every ten returnable cups successfully returned maybe!)

Now of course bringing your own reusable cup is always an option too, and whenever you can, you should!

But for the times when you can’t, deposit return schemes and RFID technology can make it possible for you to still use a reusable cup, with minimal effort.

And at Circular&Co, we’ve spent 12 months designing, testing and developing the perfect returnable cup for these changing times we live in.

The Circular Returnable Cup

Man in cafe gripping the Circular Returnable Cup which is rested on counter top.

At Circular&Co. we make all sorts of award-winning reusable coffee cups & reusable water bottles that all the good folks out there can buy, and own. But we’ve found that 94% of consumers are still not actively engaging with reusables. It seems to us that this ‘direct ownership’ model for reusables is only having a limited impact.

And we want to have a big impact!

So we’ve decided to do something different. We’ve designed what we feel is the perfect returnable cup. A cup that perfectly complements the deposit return schemes and RFID technology that we feel is the way forward for hot drinks on the go.

We’ve called it the Circular Returnable Cup, and here’s why it’s perfect.

The Perfect Cup

As sustainable as possible: The Circular Returnable Cup is made from 100% recycled content, is 100% recyclable, and is designed to last.

Cost-effective: Our returnable cup can be produced at low cost, but is very durable. It’s designed to last 500+ cycles, and has a premium look and feel which should reduce the chance of littering.

Man pouring milk into the Circular Returnable Cup.

Produced at scale: The cup can be reliably produced at scale with its simple, controllable design.

Stackable: We’ve designed this cup specifically for commercial deposit return schemes. So it is lightweight and stackable to reduce storage costs. We’ve also designed in drainage to prevent water pooling during wash/dry cycles.

Advanced Technology: Our cup is both QR and/or RFID enabled, which makes tracking and identifying each cup as easy as possible.

Patented safety: The patent-pending heat-diffusing ribs on the cup protect the user from the hot surface. Meaning there’s no need for the extra wasteful sleeve! The ribs are also easily cleaned within a commercial wash and dry set-up.

Looks the Part: Importantly, we’ve designed the Circular Returnable Cup to really appeal aesthetically. We feel this is essential for driving engagement and breaking down barriers. These cups have gotta look ‘cool’ haven’t they! (Is it cool to say cool anymore?)

Man in cafe holding the Circular Returnable Cup up to his mouth.

As well as designing the perfect cup for the future of the coffee world, we also collaborate with partners to help them make it all work.

Partner Collaboration

We collaborate with our partners to offer a workable, scalable DRS solution. This involves working with a range of logistics and software partners to deliver the entire end-to-end ‘returnable’ process.

What good is designing the perfect cup if the rest of the solution doesn’t fall into place?

That’s why we collaborate with our partners to offer a workable, scalable DRS solution. This involves working with a range of logistics and software partners to deliver the entire end-to-end ‘returnable’ process. From delivery of cups, fiscal deposit and reimbursement systems, RFID programming, cup collection, washing, and final re-delivery.

We feel, when reusable, returnable solutions like this are available, there’s no need to wait for the legislation. Even if disposable cups aren’t technically banned by law, it doesn’t mean we have to keep using them!

Surely deposit return schemes and returnables are the way forward, so why not exclusively adopt them today!?

Why We Think Industry Should Act Today

So you’re a big coffee chain — or a beautiful independent cafe, or anywhere that sells hot beverages for that matter! — and the law doesn’t currently require you to ditch disposable coffee cups. What do you do?

Well, we think you should make your own law. Change is coming and it looks like it’s gonna be reusable, returnable change. So be done with disposables now and be one of the first to embrace the returnable revolution! Make the future your present! Become one of the game-changers.

Here’s why we think you should:

Why Brands Who Adopt Returnables Today Will Be at an Advantage

Cost Savings

Certainly if you’re using our Circular cup, you will get 500+ cycles from one single cup. We assure you this will save you money compared to purchasing 500+ disposable cups.

Brand Value

If you become one of the first brands to fully commit to this truly sustainable system, it’s bound to add value to your brand in the long term. Customers will take notice and see you as a brand that is truly committed to innovation and sustainability. Being a first-mover will give you a chance to make some serious marketing waves!

Streamline Processes Early

With all these plans the EU, the UK, and other countries are making, it really does seem like a complete switch to reusables and returnables is inevitable. It’s already happening in some places, and in the coming years it will likely become the norm. If you switch solely to returnables now, it will give you a chance to streamline your processes. So by the time everyone is forced to do it, you’ll be the most efficient place around!

Be One of the Good Guys

Basically, if you make the switch to returnables now, people will notice that you’re doing the right thing. Not because you have to, but because you want to. And there’s a big difference between those two.

But If Industry Won’t Do It, Customers Can Turbo-Charge the Transition!

Of course we think it’s a brilliant idea for industry to ditch disposable cups ASAP and fully embrace returnables instead. But many brands are probably unlikely to do that until they absolutely have to.

But there is one way we can convince them to make the change today. If we as consumers start demanding a complete switch to returnables right away, you can be sure it’s going to happen.

And we’ve got the proof!

Customer Choice Makes the Difference, and We’ve Got the Proof!

Some of the global brands we have worked with have explicitly stated that they do not yet offer these solutions because customers have not yet asked for them.

At Circular&Co. we consult with many big brands about circular design. We offer them advice, and even help them run pilot schemes where they test out circular solutions, just like these returnable coffee cups.

And the truth is, some of the global brands we have worked with have explicitly stated that they do not yet offer these solutions because customers have not yet asked for them.

So the reality is clear. If the coffee drinkers of the world start demanding a switch to returnables and deposit return schemes today, the change will happen.

So, what’s stopping us? (Yes we are coffee drinkers too!)

It’s All About Perception

Lady in yellow dress with floral pattern eating steak and vegetables in a restaurant.

There are some who might be concerned about switching to returnables for hygiene reasons. But would have no problem eating in a restaurant, with cutlery somebody else has recently had in their mouth! (Maybe it really is all about perception?) Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.

Consumer uptake on reusables is so far only about 6%. So it seems something radical has to happen in order to change this.

From the technology side, this radical change is already happening. Deposit return schemes coupled with RFID and QR technology will soon make super-convenient returnable cups possible. Returnables that are just as convenient as disposables.

To help this solution really become widespread, it’s essential that we make another radical change alongside it. A radical change in our mindset!

It’s essential that if we see returnables become an option in our favourite coffee place, that we choose that option. That we overcome whatever reservation it is that’s stopping us from embracing this new system. Whether that be concerns about hygiene, convenience, whatever it is!

Some people might consider drinking from a coffee cup someone else has already used to be unhygienic. But then without a second thought they’ll head out to a bar and drink from a very questionably washed pint glass! Or eat in a restaurant with cutlery that someone else had in their actual mouth just an hour before!

Maybe some folks are concerned about convenience. But as the technology takes hold, and systems become more streamlined, this really shouldn’t be much of an issue.

We know for a fact that we as consumers have the power to make the big brands act on this. All we have to do is find the mindset to embrace this returnable revolution, and the big brands will embrace it too.

We have the power to leave the disposable coffee cup in the past for good. Regardless of what the lawmakers decide.

This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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3 Issues Circular Design Can Address to Help Rejuvenate Our Planet

3 Issues Circular Design Can Address to Help Our Planet

We know the planet and our environment is not in a good state. At the root of this problem, really there are three main issues:

Consumption, Carbon, and Pollution

Or more specifically:

  1. Overconsumption of natural resources.
  2. Excessive carbon emissions
  3. Pollution of the natural environment from waste.

    The products we buy and use every day contribute massively to all of these issues. Natural resources are required to make them, carbon emissions result from their manufacture and transport, and too often they end up as waste and pollution once we’re done with them.

    Circular design is a method of designing and manufacturing tomorrow’s products from today’s waste. It represents a solution to all of the above issues where products are concerned.

    When a product is designed for circularity it is manufactured from materials taken from old products, leaving fresh natural resources in the ground. It is also designed to last as long as possible, preventing the carbon emissions associated with producing multiple products in that time. Then, when a circular product finally does reach the end of its life, it will be easy and cost-effective to recycle it entirely into a new product. This is because it was designed from the very beginning to make that possible. So all going well, a circular product should never end up as waste. Circular design completely removes the pollution issue from the product life cycle.

    Large open quarry in tree-covered mountainous region.

    Circular design aims to minimise the extraction of fresh resources. Meaning we don’t have to destroy beautiful ecosystems to produce our products! 

    By tackling all the three major issues as early as the design phase, circular design addresses them at their root. Before a circular product is even manufactured, it is already destined to minimise use of new resources, limit carbon emissions, and eliminate pollution.

    If everyone embraces circular design, it will have an immediate, and massive, direct impact on the three major issues; overconsumption, carbon emissions, and pollution.


    With circular design we can prevent forests from being uprooted, habitats from being destroyed, and our great green earth being dug up, without having to radically change our lifestyle.

    We all love buying shiny new things now and then, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But our collective fondness for consuming new products has led to a lot of environmental destruction.

    Normally, when a new product is made, finite natural resources must be extracted from the earth. Not only does this use up precious resources, the process of extraction also emits carbon, and often destroys ecosystems. Causing pollution and biodiversity loss.

    Because circular design seeks to reuse the resources we’ve already extracted, it basically allows us to consume without consuming. Or rather, it allows us to consume new products without consuming fresh natural resources.

    This means with circular design we can prevent forests from being uprooted, habitats from being destroyed, and our great green earth being dug up, without having to radically change our lifestyle. By designing products for circularity, we can consume the same resources over and over again.

    Carbon Emissions and the 1.5 to Survive:

    Increasing carbon emissions leads to increased warming of the planet. And the hotter the planet gets, the more dangerous it becomes for humans.

    If you’ve been paying any attention at all to environment-related news lately you’re probably well aware of the 1.5 degrees limit. This is the level of warming climate scientists have warned we need to prevent if we want to avoid irreversible, disastrous changes to the climate.

    Forest fire engulfing huge hill of trees behind a small town.

    Nobody wants to live on a burning planet. By reducing product-related carbon emissions, circular design can help us avoid that terrifying fate. Photo by Mike Newbry on Unsplash.

    So it couldn’t be more essential for us to limit our carbon emissions in absolutely any way we can. Every degree of warming avoided counts, and circular design can lend a huge helping hand here in multiple ways:

    • Reduced Emissions From Resource Extraction:

    Circular design minimises the extraction of fresh resources to produce new products. This means that all those emissions associated with the extraction of resources can be avoided when circular design is done right. Biodiversity loss, water usage, and all the other environmental impacts involved with resource extraction can be avoided too.

    • Fewer Products, Fewer Emissions:

    Circular products are designed to last longer, meaning fewer products need to be produced. Fewer products produced, means fewer carbon emissions. Simple as that!

    • Fewer Emissions from Waste:

    As circular products should never end up as waste, they also limit waste-related emissions. A study published last year based in the US estimated that a 1% increase in municipal solid waste recycling contributes to a 0.317% reduction in carbon emissions. Designing all our products for circularity would not only increase recycling rates, it would also make recycling more efficient. Meaning both of these numbers could go way up!

    And that’s not the only advantage of minimising waste through circular design.

    Tackling Pollution by Eliminating Waste:

    By using circular design to make waste valuable, the products we buy and love should never have to pollute our beautiful planet again.

    Less waste means less carbon emissions, but it also means less planet-plaguing pollution. Nobody wants to see plastic clogging up the ocean or discarded products littering the land.

    And the thing is, there would never be any need to clean all this pollution up if we never created it in the first place! All that rubbish you see scarring the landscapes and infecting the waterways was thrown away by someone.

    It could have been reused. If it was designed for circularity, it would have been reused.

    Designing circular products — ones that can easily be turned into new products after use — makes ‘waste’ more valuable. It makes it more profitable to use waste instead of throwing it away.

    There is a good reason why you’ve never seen a plastic £10 note floating in the sea!!

    By using circular design to make waste valuable, the products we buy and love should never have to pollute our beautiful planet again.

    Choose Circular Design — Choose a Safer Planet

    Somewhere along the way, things got a little out of hand.

    Too much consumption, too many emissions, too much pollution.

    At a time when we all feel we need to start doing something to address these issues but we don’t know what, circular design offers a solution that addresses all three. At their root.

    By choosing to buy circular, you can ensure that the planet keeps spinning in circles, and not out of control.

    Circular&Co are trying to reduce the amount of plastic within the drinks world by producing reusable coffee cups and reusable water bottles made from recycled plastic!

    This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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    Why Product Repair is so Important (And How We Can Make It Easier)

    Why Product Repair is so Important
    (And How We Can Make It Easier)

    Product Repair is Planet Repair

    Every time a new product is made it has an impact.

    Products don’t just appear out of thin air. (How cool would it be if they did!?)

    Unfortunately, every time a new product is made, resources get used up. Energy, land, raw materials, all that good stuff. Emissions get emitted, and usually, there are other environmental consequences involved too.

    Factory chimneys pumping out clouds of emissions into the air next to water.

    Almost always, when a product is produced, there are negative environmental consequences involved. So product repair is essential to ensure that every product we do produce, lasts as long as possible. Photo by Maxim Tolchinskiy on Unsplash.

    Every time a new product is made it has an impact. So doesn’t it make sense to ensure every single product we produce lasts as long as possible? So we can maximise the value we get from all those resources we used to make the product?

    Well of course it does! And one of the best ways we can do that is through product repair.

    If we can focus on making products that are easy to repair, we can bring them back to life when they stop working. This is probably the best way to eradicate what we’ve started calling ‘single-life products’ for good. We are positive the planet would agree that this is a very good idea!

    But unfortunately, a whole lot of products have been getting more and more difficult to repair in recent years. So what are we going to do about it?

    The Issue: Product Repair Becoming Impractical

    Particularly when it comes to modern electronics, products are not as easy to repair as they used to be.

    Naturally, as technology has progressed, products have become more advanced. But the way manufacturers are choosing to design many of these products is not helping!

    By doing things like glueing and soldering components together, using non-standard screws, and limiting access to spare parts, many brands are making products unnecessarily difficult and expensive to repair.

    Person handing smartphone with smashed screen to other person above glass shop counter.

    With components often glued and soldered together, repairing many modern devices has become unnecessarily difficult and expensive. Photo by PR MEDIA on Unsplash.

    And as these devices become more and more integral in our everyday lives, it’s no surprise that we’re producing more electronic waste globally than ever before.

    If we want to start reducing this waste — while still using all our lovely devices of course — then product repair is a big deal. And we mean practical, affordable, easily accessible product repair.

    There are plenty of ways we can make this happen.

    Solutions: How We Can Make Product Repair Easier

    It’s encouraging to know that steps are already being taken around the world to boost product repair. But more still needs to be done!

    So where are we right now, and what still needs to happen?

    What’s Already Happening?

    As you might expect, the steadily decreasing repairability of modern-day products has not gone unnoticed. So thankfully, some action is already being taken to make product repair more accessible.

    Right to Repair

    Last year, what are known as ‘right to repair’ regulations were introduced in the UK and the EU.

    These regulations are basically designed to force manufacturers to make their products easier to repair. Currently, anyone making TVs, electronic displays, lighting, fridges, dishwashers, or washing machines and wash-dryers in the UK and the EU is affected by these new rules.

    And under these new rules:

    • Manufacturers of these products will be legally obligated to make spare parts available to professional repairers and/or end-users. The parts must remain available for at least 7-10 years after a product has been discontinued.
    • Manufacturers must provide repair parts and manuals to professional repairers within 15 days of request.
    • Repairs must be possible using commonly available tools.

    Man wearing black open suit jacket and white shirt holding card with half union jack and half EU flag up to the camera.

    Just last year, right to repair laws were introduced in the UK and the EU. These laws are aimed at making certain products easier to repair.

    Now we would say these new rules are absolutely a welcome move in the right direction. But you might have noticed that they don’t include anything about smartphones, tablets, or laptops. Or cookers or hobs or tumble dryers or microwaves or coffee machines or kettles or a whole load of other commonly used items!

    There’s also no guarantee that replacement parts will be affordable, and many of the parts will only be made available to professional repairers.

    So of course we welcome these new laws with open, grateful, repairable, circular arms. But more still needs to be done.

    Repairability Index

    Speaking of more being done, France has already taken an extra repair-friendly step.

    Since the start of last year, they’ve been requiring anyone who manufactures smartphones, laptops, TVs, washing machines, and electric lawnmowers to give these products a repairability score.

    According to this ‘repairability index’, each product must be rated on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the easiest to repair. Each manufacturer must score their products based on availability of technical documents to aid in repair, ease of disassembly, availability of spare parts, and a sub-criteria specific to the product category concerned.

    This score — and all the information that went into calculating it — must be made available to consumers when they purchase any of these products.

    The idea is that by forcing manufacturers to explicitly tell consumers how repairable their products are, they’ll be much more likely to actually make repairing them easier.

    Everyone does love getting high scores on stuff right?

    But how can we all start getting even higher scores when it comes to product repair?

    What Still Needs to Happen to Make Product Repair Easier?

    Progress is being made in the fight to make product repair more accessible, and it really is great to see. But we’re not quite there yet!

    Here’s a few things we reckon would help us get over the line.

    Expand Right to Repair

    If we really want to make a difference, we need to implement strict right to repair laws for as many product categories as possible. In as many countries around the world as possible.

    As we mentioned above, the right to repair laws introduced in the UK and the EU last year currently don’t apply to a whole bunch of widely used products. And they’re not super strict when it comes to making spare parts affordable, and easily available for everyone.

    We’re sure this will happen soon enough, but if we really want to make a difference, we need to implement strict right to repair laws for as many product categories as possible. In as many countries around the world as possible.

    We need laws that ensure spare parts are available to everyone, at an affordable price. And it should become standard for all products to come with clear and comprehensive instructions for repair.

    If we can get to that stage, we’ll really be getting somewhere!

    Repairability Scores Everywhere We Go!

    One way to help us get to that stage is to take France’s repairability index and implement it far and wide. (Geographically and product-categorically) (That is a word we swear!)

    If manufacturers everywhere are forced to tell us how repairable their products are, it surely won’t be long before they get their act together. (Repair their act even??)

    Make Circular Design a Priority

    And the best way any manufacturer can do that, is to embrace circular design.

    Designing for circularity means carefully designing products with end-of-life management as the most important feature.

    Circular products are designed from the very beginning to last as long as possible. Durability, repairability, upgradability, recyclability; these are all absolutely key features of any product designed using circular design principles.

    Man using pen to draw sketches of a scooter on an open notebook with white pages.

    If a product is designed using circular design principles, you can be sure it’ll be easily repairable! Photo by Kumpan Electric on Unsplash.

    Basically, circular design is used to create products that remain valuable even after they’ve served their initial purpose. And this most definitely involves doing things like:

    • Simplifying products as much as possible.
    • Using as many standard components as possible.
    • Choosing modular designs when applicable.
    • Making products easy to disassemble.
    • Using recycle-friendly materials.
    • Making spare parts readily available.

    If all manufacturers start doing this, product repair will never be an issue again. And we can wave goodbye to single-life products for good!

    But until that happens, there’s still plenty we can do at home to make our products more repairable.

    What Can You Do Now?

    Repair needs to become the first thing we think about when a product stops working. We need to get excited about repair!

    As things like right to repair, repairability scores, and circular design hopefully become more commonplace, products should gradually become easier to repair.

    And as that happens, it’s also important that we as consumers embrace this change. Repair needs to become the first thing we think about when a product stops working. We need to get excited about repair! As excited as we get when we think about buying a new product! And as well as getting professionals to do the repairing, we need to welcome the challenge of repairing things ourselves.

    We live in the age of the internet people! There are so many resources out there that can help us learn how to repair things ourselves! (Obviously the products need to be designed for repair in the first place, but as we’ve seen that is slowly happening).

    Here’s a great list of info and resources that’ll help you get repairing in no time. One of the best ones is iFixit, which offers spare parts, tools, diagnostics, product repairability reviews, and even a Youtube channel with guides on how to repair all sorts of products.

    With resources like these, and products that are actually designed for repair, we can all come together to make the products we use and love last.

    No doubt, our planet will thank us.

    This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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    5 Ways to Eradicate Single-Use Products Using Circular Design

    5 Ways to Eradicate Single-Life Products Using Circular Design

    Time to Eradicate Single-Life Products for Good!

    You heard it here first! YOLO should not apply to products! No product on this great green earth of ours should ever have to utter the phrase YOLO and believe it to be true! It’s time we find a way to eradicate single-life products for good! (Circular design just might be the way to do it!) (Nobody actually says YOLO anymore anyways, right?)

    But wait. ‘Single-life products’ you say? What in the great green world are those? Well…

    Single-life products are products that will inevitably end up as waste after they’ve served their initial purpose.

    Any product — single-use or reusable — that is impractical to repair or recycle is a single-life product. We buy them, use them, and then we’re forced to chuck them in the rubbish because repairing or recycling them just isn’t a realistic option.

    Maybe the product contains too many different materials so recycling it isn’t cost-effective. Maybe repairing it is basically impossible because all the components are glued together!
    There are many possible reasons why a product ultimately becomes a single-life one.

    Single-life products are products that will inevitably end up as waste after they’ve served their initial purpose.

    Whatever those reasons are though, it will nearly always be possible to address them by designing the product differently in the first place. That is where circular design comes in.

    Here’s how embracing circular design can help us eradicate single-life products for good.

    1. First, Make Products That Last!

    Okay so before we even get to the part where we design products that can live happily ever after through multiple lifetimes, it’s important to also place a little focus on that initial lifetime.

    See the reason single-life products are such an issue is because basically they are resource-inefficient, and they create waste. Energy, raw materials, and emissions are all required to make each product, and then all of these resources are ultimately wasted when the product ends up in the rubbish.

    Factory chimneys situated behind a forest pumping out clouds of emissions.

    Every time we make a product, there are consequences for the environment. So we should always do everything we can to design products that last as long as possible. Photo by Daniel Moqvist on Unsplash.

    Designing products that don’t end up in the rubbish is the ultimate goal here. But if we want to get the most value out of the many resources that go into making each product, it also makes sense to design products that last as long as possible to begin with.

    As keeping products and materials in use is one of the core principles of the circular economy, designing for circularity is the perfect way to do this.

    2. Design for Repair

    In recent years, especially when it comes to modern electronics, having products repaired has been getting much more difficult. (And more expensive).

    But when a product does finally call it quits, what then?

    Well ideally you’ll be able to bring it back to life — or give it a second life — by getting it repaired. (Product repair is probably one of the most important weapons we have in the fight against single-life products!)

    But in recent years, especially when it comes to modern electronics, having products repaired has been getting much more difficult. (And more expensive).

    And yes, you’ve guessed it; many of the factors making products difficult or expensive to repair can be fixed by changing the design.

    A really great example of this is what Fairphone are doing with their circular-friendly smartphones.

    Fairphone is a perfect example of how circular design can be used to make products easier to repair.

    While many smartphone manufacturers seem to be designing their products in a way that makes them unnecessarily difficult to repair (by glueing and soldering components together, using non-standard screws, and not making spare parts available), Fairphone is taking a very different approach.

    They design their phones to be as repairable as possible. Each individual component can be easily replaced, all spare parts are available through the Fairphone website, and the phones can easily be disassembled using a standard screwdriver. None of the parts are glued or soldered together, which makes it possible for customers to actually repair the phones themselves. (Probably best to watch a few Youtube guides beforehand though!)

    Eradicate single-life products you say? We see Fairphone as proof that careful circular design is already making that possible.

    3. Upgradeable, Before Replaceable

    Sometimes even when a product is still in full working order people will want to replace it!

    Maybe they fancy something with a better camera, a brighter screen, or maybe they just want something new and shiny.

    Now we’ll probably never be able to stop people wanting new and shiny things. But especially with tech products, if it’s an upgrade in functionality they’re looking for, there’s no reason they should have to buy a whole new product and ditch the old one.

    If designed in a certain way (the circular way), it should be possible for customers to simply upgrade the particular part of a device they’re not happy with. If they fancy a better camera, can’t they just upgrade the camera instead of buying a whole new device? Or maybe they just want a bigger hard drive, or a brighter screen, or even a different kind of USB port?

    Laptop with back panel removed, exposing all the individual components.

    If only one or two of your device’s components are outdated, should there really be a need to upgrade the entire thing? Photo by Nikolai Chernichenko on Unsplash.

    Throwing away an old device because one or two components are outdated makes no sense at all. And thankfully, some brands are already starting to agree.

    A company called Framework will soon be launching a laptop where every component from the battery to the speakers to the headphone jack can easily be replaced and upgraded! And this is all down to the clever modular design of the laptop.

    With a design like this, there’s no reason you couldn’t keep the same laptop for years and years. All you’d need to do is upgrade an individual part here and there when it stops working or becomes outdated. Meaning basically, your laptop would live forever! (And all because it’s designed with circularity in mind).

    4. Design for Recycling

    We don’t just mean designing products that can technically be recycled. We mean products should be designed so that recycling is easy and cost-effective.

    But for the products that don’t live forever, making them easy to recycle is essential so that they don’t end up as waste. In fact, if you’re really following circular design principles, the ‘recyclability’ of a product should be one of the most important design factors you consider.

    And we don’t just mean designing products that can technically be recycled. We mean products should be designed so that recycling is easy and cost-effective. This will usually mean doing things like carefully selecting recycle-friendly materials, making sure products are easy to disassemble, and always making the design as simple as possible.

    A wonderful example of this in practice is a circularly-designed (yes circularly is a word!) running shoe Adidas recently released. See the majority of modern shoes are made from loads of different materials, and are usually stitched and glued and moulded together in all sorts of crazy ways. This can make them very difficult to recycle, and so, many of them end up being single-life products.

    Adidas have designed a shoe that’s made from one single material. This makes it far far easier to recycle!

    But Adidas has cleverly managed to use circular design to get around this issue. By designing a shoe from one single material, using no glue in the process, they have created a product that can easily be recycled into another at end of life. 100% of the raw materials can easily be used again to create another shoe.

    Now if that’s not a perfect example of a product having a second life, we don’t know what is.

    5. Make End-Of-Life Management The Most Important Feature

    The way any product is designed is sure to have a huge impact on what happens to that product once we’re done with it. When you really think about it, it makes sense that getting the design right initially can solve so many problems down the line.

    That’s why carefully designing our products to last, and to be repairable, upgradeable, and recyclable is so important.

    But if we really want to eradicate single-life products for good, we can’t just settle for doing this some of the time. We need to make it the most important feature of all!

    And that is what circular design is all about. Making sure every product is carefully designed with end-of-life management as its most important feature.

    If we could convince every manufacturer on earth today to truly embrace circular design in everything they do, we’re positive; no product would ever have to say YOLO again.

    This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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    What Are Single-Life Products and Why Are They an Issue?

    Single-Life Products and Why Are They becoming an Issue?

    Disposable Gets a New Name

    We reckon if you can’t turn a product into something new once you’re done with it, or prolong its life if it breaks, it ought to be considered disposable.

    If you use a product 1000 times before throwing it in the rubbish, would you consider that product to be disposable?

    Most people would probably answer that question with something like: “Disposable? No Way! What the heck are you talking about? That’s clearly a reusable product you’ve got there.”

    And that assessment would be fair enough. Because in today’s world, the term ‘disposable’ has become exclusively associated with single-use products. But we think this limited use of the word disposable when describing products is an absolute travesty! See we reckon if you can’t turn a product into something new once you’re done with it, or prolong its life if it breaks, it ought to be considered disposable. No matter how many times you initially use it.

    But since the term disposable already seems to be taken, we’ve come up with a term of our own. A better term. A fairer term. A term that encompasses all products — both single-use and reusable — that we feel are ultimately disposable.

    And that term is: ‘Single-Life Products.’

    But simply coining a term isn’t going to get us very far is it? Probably best that we elaborate.

    What Are Single-Life Products?

    Simply put, single-life products are any products that are likely to end up as waste once their initial purpose has been served. So this must mean any product that’s recyclable or repairable doesn’t count as a single-life product, right? Well, not necessarily.

    See there are plenty of products out there that can technically be recycled, but for various reasons the recycling process for that product just isn’t practical enough for it to actually happen.

    (This can often be the case with products made from multiple materials. Different materials need to be separated before they can be recycled, which of course takes time and effort. If this process isn’t cost-effective, it’s very unlikely the product will be recycled. So even when you throw a technically recyclable product in the recycling bin, it can still end up as waste).

    There are also plenty of products out there that are of course repairable, if you’ve got the tools, parts, expertise, or money to do it! (Nearly half of folks in the UK surveyed in 2020 said they’d buy a new tablet or smartphone instead of repairing their current one. Cost and inconvenience of repair were two of the main reasons for this).

    Smartphone with screen removed and inner components exposed resting on dark surface.

    Many products, including various modern electronic devices, are either too difficult, or too expensive to repair. So a lot of people end up just buying a replacement instead. Photo by Joel Rohland on Unsplash.

    These ‘recyclable’ and ‘repairable’ products that are not practical to recycle or repair are also single-life products. Basically, if you have to really go out of your way to make sure a product doesn’t end up as waste, it is single-life! And that counts for reusables as well as single-use items.

    But is this even a big deal? Shouldn’t one life be enough for these products?

    Why Are Single-Life Products an Issue?

    Every single time a new product is produced, some amount of energy and resources will be used up.

    Reusable coffee cups, reusable cups and flasks made from coated stainless steel, most ceramics and drink glasses, many modern electronic devices. These are just some examples of single-life products. But so what? Why does this really matter?

    Well, where do we even start?


    Maybe it makes sense to start at the start. The beginning of a product’s life where resources and energy are required to actually make the product possible.

    Every single time a new product is produced, some amount of energy and resources will be used up. (This is even true for products made from recycled materials, as energy will be needed to mould these recycled materials into new products).

    And as resource extraction and processing is one of the main contributors to climate change and biodiversity-loss worldwide, it makes a whole lot of sense to try and limit our use of fresh resources as much as we conceivably can!

    This is never going to happen when we still have single-life products, because the resources these products contain are never likely to be used again. What a waste.


    Factory with red and white stripy chimney emitting smoke next to motorway.

    Unfortunately for every new product we produce, it’s very likely there are going to be some emissions involved! Photo by Marcin Jozwiak from Pexels.

    Of course every time a new product is produced there are also emissions involved. Deadly, dangerous, planet-warming emissions! Each new product needs to be manufactured, packaged, and transported around the world. So wouldn’t it make sense to make sure every product has as many lives as possible?

    Global Waste Crisis

    Now we get to the part where the product has served its initial purpose. If it’s a single-life product, repairing or recycling it won’t be a practical or cost-effective option. And so, you guessed it, the product inevitably ends up as waste.

    And that is a big problem. Possibly bigger than most people even realise.

    Globally, we are producing more waste today than ever before, and worldwide waste is expected to nearly double by 2050. Not all of this waste comes from single-life products of course, but some of it does.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    What’s the Solution?

    As we’ve seen, single-life products lead to increased resource extraction, pollution, emissions, and waste. Basically, they make this planet a less hospitable place for us to live. And the thing is, no product ever really needs to be single-life!

    This is an issue that in some way affects every one of us, and if we want to, we can all be a part of the solution.

    Before we ever even get to the production stage, it’s possible to eradicate single-life products by designing for circularity. So products are easy to repair, and practical to recycle.

    And if we can combine circular design with other solutions like extended producer responsibility, legislation to make product repair more accessible, appropriate adjustments to recycling infrastructure, and collaboration between everyone involved, there’s no reason we ever have to produce a single-life product again.

    But maybe the first thing you can do to tackle the issue is; share this article with as many folks as possible! Get the word out! Single-life products are not good enough and we all need to come together and do better! Design better, produce better, buy better, collaborate better, demand better!

    This is an issue that in some way affects every one of us, and if we want to, we can all be a part of the solution.

    For us, the solution has already begun.

    This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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    Is ‘Single-Life’ the Next Big Issue As We Try to Eradicate Single-Use?

    Is ‘Single-Life’ the Next Big Issue as ‘Single-use’?

    ‘Single-Use’ Products Are Painfully Wasteful, But We Need to Watch Out for ‘Single-Life’ Products Too.

    Single-use products are painfully wasteful aren’t they?

    All those precious resources extracted, energy wasted, and emissions created to produce these products and ship them around the world. Just so we can use them for a few fleeting moments. Maximum environmental damage in exchange for minimal use; painful!

    But the thing is, the number of times we use a product is not the only problem. Because no matter how many times we use any product, eventually that product will have served its purpose. And what happens then?

    Black rubbish skip overflowing with rubbish bags in front of red brick building.

    If any product, even a reusable product, ultimately ends up in the trash, that’s still a problem, isn’t it? Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash.

    That’s where, in a lot of cases, we run into another problem; products we at Circular&Co. have started referring to as ‘single-life’ products. And in our minds, the environmental threat posed by these single-life products is just as significant as the single-use issue!

    (We could of course just use the term ‘disposable’ instead of single-life, but disposable has somehow become pretty much synonymous with single-use products only — even though many reusable products are also essentially disposable as they can’t be recycled — so we feel the term single-life is needed to cover all disposable products).

    But what in the heck are we actually talking about when we say ‘single-life products’?

    What Do We Mean by Single-Life Products?

    You know those wireless earbuds you bought a couple of years back that barely hold a charge anymore? Or that reusable stainless steel flask with the fancy painted graphic that’s seen better days? Or even that wine glass you cracked last night after a questionable number of beverages?

    All these things should be pretty easy to recycle shouldn’t they? Or at least with the earbuds, getting them repaired or replacing the battery shouldn’t be much of an issue? Well…

    We must remember that not all reusable products are sustainable! Not if they’re designed to be single-life! Even if you use your reusable coffee flask 100,000 times, if you can’t recycle it, it will still end up as waste eventually!

    SPOILER ALERT HERE! (In more ways than one): For multiple reasons which we’ll explore in the next section, none of these products are easily repaired or recycled. Once you’re done with them, they will all likely end up as waste, adding to a global waste crisis that gets worse and worse every day. This is what we mean when we talk about ‘single-life’ products, and sadly, they are much more common than you’d think.

    We would define a single-life product as any product that cannot practically be repaired and/or recycled. Or in other words, any product that is most likely to end up as waste once it has served its original purpose. This of course applies to both reusable and single-use products.

    (We must remember that not all reusable products are sustainable! Not if they’re designed to be single-life! Even if you use your reusable coffee flask 100,000 times, if you can’t recycle it, it will still end up as waste eventually!)

    Yellow JCB digger driving up a large hill in a landfill.

    Any product that ultimately ends up adding to the worldwide waste crisis once we’re done with it is a single-life product. Photo by Tom Fisk from Pexels.

    Clearly then, single-life products, whether single-use or reusable, are a big part of the waste problem. But before we can start thinking about solutions, it’s probably best to consider some examples of single-life products, right? 

    Maybe we can find out what’s making them so difficult to repair and recycle.

    Examples of Single-Life Products

    Any product that cannot be easily repaired or recycled is a single-life product.

    This includes products that can technically be recycled, but are not likely to be recycled because the process is too inconvenient, complex, or expensive. (Just about any product can be recycled if you’ve got the time, technology, and money to do so). It also includes products that can be repaired, but to repair them is so expensive that it’s cheaper to just buy a new one.

    Unfortunately, there are way too many products that fall into this category:

    Disposable Coffee Cups

    Brown and white single-life disposable coffee cup being held up against grey wall.

    They may look perfectly innocent, but many single-use coffee cups are ultimately single-life products. Photo by Angela Roma from Pexels.

    Although these may seem quite innocent and easy to recycle, sometimes that might not be the case. Many disposable coffee cups are made from both paper and plastic, which complicates the recycling process. Specialist facilities are usually required to recycle them, and unfortunately, there isn’t always one of these facilities close by. Meaning many of these cups have to be considered single-life products.

    Of course you could always use a reusable cup instead, but be careful which one you choose!

    Reusable Cups and Flasks Made From Coated Stainless Steel

    Very often, companies and industries with the best of intentions believe that they’re developing a green, recyclable solution, but they might not have the links with recycling firms to understand the ins and outs of ‘real-world’ recycling.

    We say real-world recycling because although many products are technically recyclable in theory, if they’re not cost-effective to recycle, the likelihood is they won’t actually end up being recycled in reality.

    This can often be the case for coated stainless steel cups and flasks. For this steel to be recycled, the powder coating/paint must first be removed. Removing the coating is usually quite tricky, and can make the recycling process unprofitable for recyclers. So many of these cups and flasks are never actually recycled.

    What is basically nothing more than a misunderstanding between manufacturers and recyclers often ends up turning these beautifully designed, reusable, potentially sustainable products into single-life ones that are hardly green.

    Beware of Single-Life Products Made From Recycled Content

    Remember, not all reusables are sustainable, and that’s also the case when dealing with products made from recycled content.

    Making products from recycled materials is a great idea when it’s done right. But if you can’t recycle the product again once you’re finished with it, it still ends up as waste. Just being made from waste doesn’t make it sustainable! Really it needs to not become waste too.

    So it’s best to make sure that any product you buy that’s made from recycled content, isn’t a single-life product.

    Remember, not all reusables are sustainable, and that’s also the case when dealing with products made from recycled content.

    Pretty Much All Ceramics

    White ceramic coffee mug on black slate counter top viewed from above.

    Be careful with that coffee mug of yours because unfortunately, it is far from circular! More than likely, like most ceramics, it is a single-life product. Photo by Matt Hoffman on Unsplash.

    This will probably come as a surprise to many, but most ceramics are pretty much destined to end up in the landfill. This is because, unfortunately, most recycling centres just don’t have the technical capability to recycle them.

    There’s also not much profit to be found in ceramics recycling, so you should definitely hold on to that favourite tea mug of yours as long as you can (and even your least favourite!). As that’s a single-life product you’re dealing with.

    Drinking Glasses (And Glass Cookware)

    Drinking glasses, pyrex dishes, pretty much all glass cookware. These are all single-life products.

    These items don’t get recycled because they’re treated with chemicals to help them withstand high temperatures. This gives them a higher melting point, and so they can’t be recycled along with other glass items. And it’s just not commercially viable to recycle them separately.

    And good luck repairing them if they do happen to break!

    Modern Electronics

    Person using tools to fix illuminated blue circuit board on white surface.

    As electronics become more advanced, repairing and recycling them seems to get more and more difficult. But does it have to be this way? Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash.

    Electronic waste is now the world’s fastest-growing domestic waste stream. Less than 20% of this waste is actually collected and recycled worldwide. And repairing electronic devices is also becoming more difficult and expensive than it has been in the past.

    One thing contributing to this low recycling rate and lack of ‘repairability’ is actually the design of some electronics.

    As our devices get smaller, more advanced, or often both, their designs inevitably become more complex. This usually requires more and smaller components, different types of screws, and in some cases, parts being glued together. Meaning that increasingly, it just isn’t cost-effective to repair or recycle these items, making many of them single-life.

    (Not all of these devices need to be designed as single-life products though. We’ve got some wonderful examples proving just that in the next section!).

    Other Examples of Single-Life Products

    Certain types of furniture, mattresses, carpets, lightbulbs, duvets and pillows, plastic toothbrushes, tampons and disposable razors, and clothes containing more than one fabric, are just some other examples of products that for one reason or another, can often be difficult or expensive to repair or recycle. Not every single product that falls into these categories is a single-life product, but unfortunately, many currently are.

    And many of the companies producing single-life products probably don’t realise that’s what they’re doing! They’re creating products that are technically repairable/recyclable, but they might not actually realise how unlikely it is that their products will actually be repaired or recycled.

    So how do we get to a point where all (or at least most) products are being repaired and recycled? How do we make this single-life issue a thing of the past?

    What is the Solution to the Single-Life Issue?

    Like most things in this mad, modern world of ours, the issue of single-life products is a complex one. A combination of solutions will be needed if we want to solve it!

    Here’s our take on what needs to happen.

    Make Circular Design the Norm

    The truth is, most of the factors that make any product difficult to repair or recycle can be avoided by getting the design right. This is where circular design can make a huge difference.

    Circular design is all about making resources last, and minimising waste. We can address a whole lot of the issues involved with single-life products by re-designing them using circular principles like:

    • Designing products to last as long as possible. (This includes making them easy to maintain, dismantle, and repair).
    • Design for recycling, simple as that! (How easy a product is to recycle needs to become just as important as anything else during the design process. This might include choosing materials that can easily be recycled, or designing products so components are easily separated. If we can’t make a product that’s easy to recycle, maybe we shouldn’t make that product?)
    • Basically, we need to start designing all our products with sound end-of-life management as a critical design feature. If we do this, then very few products should ever have to say YOLO ever again!

    The truth is, most of the factors that make any product difficult to repair or recycle can be avoided by getting the design right. This is where circular design can make a huge difference.

    Extended Producer Responsibility

    How do we get companies to design their products with end-of-life in mind?

    Well one way could be to make them more responsible for the eventual disposal of those products.

    This is called ‘extended producer responsibility’, and might involve things like requiring companies to cover the waste disposal costs for products they produce. (If they design their products right, these costs never have to be very much at all!)

    Policy like this is already on its way to becoming law in the UK for packaging. Maybe soon this might be the case for products too, which would surely make single-life product design much less prevalent.

    Make Repairing Easier!

    Man using tools to repair smartphone on blue/green table.

    The easier products are to repair, the longer they last. And so, the less waste they create! Photo by Kilian Seiler on Unsplash.

    Repairing, if possible, is always better than recycling. Making product repair as accessible as we possibly can is one of the more obvious solutions to the single-life issue. Remember it’s always been reduce and reuse first hasn’t it!? But the problem is, particularly with electronics, repairing has been getting less and less possible.  Thankfully though, in places, this seems to slowly be changing.

    In the UK, a ‘right to repair’ law was introduced just this summer which requires manufacturers of some electrical products to make spare parts available to consumers and third-party repair services. And France actually introduced a world-first ‘repairability index’ policy this year which forces producers of certain e-products to tell consumers how repairable their products are.

    Neither of these new laws are perfect yet, and they don’t cover all electronics, but they’re definitely a welcome start. We still feel a lot more needs to be done with the initial design of the products though.

    (Stick those repairability scores on every product out there and we reckon those designs will soon get much more planet-friendly!)

    (Maybe there should be recyclability scores too???)

    Make Recycling Easier!

    If all products are designed with recycling in mind, we should be able to use our current recycling infrastructure to recycle most things. But there is probably also room to re-think and re-design some of our recycling systems to meet the products halfway. (We by no means claim to be experts in recycling, but there’s always some room for improvement isn’t there!?)

    It could be that government incentives and investment might help to achieve this, or even collaboration between manufacturers and recyclers.

    Or to make things even simpler, companies could always start offering product takeback programs. That way customers can just send used products back to them directly for recycling.

    Surely nothing could be easier than that?


    Product takeback programs require a little collaboration between manufacturers and their customers. Manufacturers make it possible for customers to send back old products free of charge to be recycled. Customers then actually take the time to send the products back. And hey presto! The products get turned into new products, and everyone’s a winner.

    Now imagine if manufacturers, customers, recyclers, governments, designers and everyone involved worked together in this way. We could make single-life products a thing of the past in no time.

    For Now, Watch What You Buy

    People walking through shopping centre aisle under Christmas decorations.

    If you do your research before buying any new product, it’s usually possible to avoid single-life products! Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash.

    Until that happens though, as consumers, what we can start doing straight away is paying attention! Whenever we can, before buying anything, we can do a little research into the repairability and recyclability of that product. If it looks like a single-life product, then maybe there’s a better option somewhere else?

    Maybe, there’s a circular option?

    Examples of Circular (Multiple-Life) Products Available Today

    We feel these all count as proof that if you get the design right, no product ever has to be single-life!

    Probably the best way to make sure you’re not buying a single-life product is to choose a genuinely circular one instead.

    Below are some of our favourite examples of circular products. We feel these all count as proof that if you get the design right, no product ever has to be single-life!


    Fairphone front and back cover side by side.

    The Fairphone is proof that even complex electronic products don’t have to be single-life. It’s all in the design!

    Like many modern electronic devices, smartphones can be difficult to repair or recycle for multiple reasons. Problematic to disassemble, parts glued together, spare parts hard to come by, you name it. But it doesn’t have to be this way!

    Amsterdam-based smartphone brand Fairphone is proof that even modern electronics can be designed for complete circularity. Fairphone is a real game-changer in the smartphone industry for a number of reasons:

    – 5-Year Extended Manufacturer Warranty:

    Fairphones are designed to last, and each phone comes with a massive 5-year warranty to actually encourage repair instead of replacement.

    – Modular Design:

    These smartphones are designed so that each component can be easily replaced or upgraded. If an individual part stops working, you can replace just that part without fuss, instead of replacing the whole phone!

    – They Sell All the Spare Parts on Their Website:

    Acquiring the spare parts will never be an issue, because you can actually buy pretty much every individual component these phones contain through their website.

    – Disassemble and Repair Yourself:

    Fairphones are designed to be easily disassembled using a standard screwdriver. None of the parts are glued together, making it possible for you to repair the phone yourself. (Fairphone received a 9.3/10 score in that French repairability index we mentioned earlier!)

    – Upgradable Parts!:

    Fairphone’s modular design also makes it possible to upgrade certain parts on old models. So having a phone with a better camera than your current one doesn’t have to mean buying a whole new phone.

    – Electronic Waste Neutral:

    For every Fairphone sold, Fairphone recycles or gives an old phone a second life. So every time they sell a new phone, they ensure that a whole phone’s worth of potential electronic waste is avoided.

    – Take-back programme:

    When it comes to recycling your old phone, Fairphone makes this as simple as possible by doing it for you. You can actually send Fairphone any old model of phone and they’ll either refurbish or recycle it! They even give you a Fairphone gift card with the value of your old phone in return.

    Clearly, Fairphone is making products that are about as far away from single-life as you can get. And they’re managing to do this with complicated electronic devices.

    If this isn’t proof that single-life products can be avoided through thoughtful, circular design, then nothing is.


    But here’s a little more proof!

    Gomi, based in Brighton UK, make handmade portable speakers from recycled plastic bags and repurposed e-bike batteries. And these speakers are destined to live many many lives.

    If your Gomi speaker ever breaks, you can send it back to them and they’ll repair it for a reasonable fee. If it’s unfixable, they’ll give you money off your next order, and recycle the whole thing into new products.

    (Gomi designs their speakers so that all materials and components can be reused in next-generation products. So nothing goes to waste. Further proof that with the right design, no product needs to be single-life).


    Tooth is another UK-based brand using circular design to overcome a common single-life product-related issue. (Plastic toothbrushes are famously difficult to recycle because they’re usually made from multiple types of plastic).

    They make toothbrushes from recycled aluminium with detachable, industrially-compostable heads.

    The aluminium base of these toothbrushes lasts for decades — Tooth suggests it should be robust enough to last a lifetime — and is 100% recyclable, and easy to recycle, as it’s comprised of a single material.

    So you can keep this base for life, recycle it if you ever need to, and just swap out the head for a new one every few months. Tooth is currently working on making heads that are home compostable, meaning they’re very close to creating a virtually zero-waste toothbrush.

    By switching to Tooth, you should never have to buy a single-life plastic toothbrush again.

    Let’s Not Let Single-Life Become the New Single-Use

    Whether a product is single-use or not, if it can’t easily be repaired or recycled once you’re done with it, it will more than likely end up as waste.

    This is the problem we face with single-life products, but as we have seen, it is a completely solvable problem.

    Brands like Fairphone, Gomi, Tooth and many others are already proving that it doesn’t have to be this way. If everyone starts embracing circular design like them, we can say goodbye to single-life products for good.

    This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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    Our New Reusable Water Bottle Is Designed For Circularity, But Can We All Find The Bottle To Go Circular?

    Two Circular&Co. reusable water bottles placed on wooden decking between two people sitting down facing a lake.

    Our New Reusable Water Bottle Is Designed For Circularity, But Can We All Find The Bottle To Go Circular?

    A New Kind of Reusable Water Bottle

    Reusables on the Rise

    It’s that age-old question isn’t it? Stemming back through the ages; reusable water bottle, or single-use water bottle? (Okay maybe this is actually an entirely modern question, with surely only one sensible answer?)

    Person picking up plastic water bottle out of the send on a beach near the water.

    Maybe if we start using reusable water bottles more often, we won’t have to clean up trash like this anymore? Photo by Marta Ortigosa from Pexels.

    To be honest, we’ve never thought single-use products in general have ever been such a good idea in most cases. Especially when they’re made from a material like plastic, which often takes hundreds of years to decompose. One single-use for hundreds of years of environmental abuse? Not on our watch, thank you very much!

    Encouragingly, it seems we’re not the only ones who think this way. In the last couple of years, organisations like Greenpeace and Zero Waste Europe have been calling for the use of reusables above all single-use products wherever possible, so that hopefully we can start making this plastic-covered planet of ours all clean and beautiful again.

    Embracing reusables is also one of the main solutions put forward in the ‘single-use-plastics directive’ launched by the EU in 2019. This directive contains legislation aimed at significantly reducing plastic pollution and developing a circular economy for plastics by 2030. So it seems that single-use products may well have had their day, and reusables will soon be the only way. Yay!

    Our Reusable Bottle Made From Bottles

    92% of the material in each of our reusable bottles comes from single-use bottles. So each bottle we make saves 14 single-use bottles from potentially ending up as waste.

    But when we do start kindly showing our single-use products the door and embracing reusables forevermore, it’s essential that we remember; all reusables are not created equal!!! 

    Take a reusable water bottle for example. Of course, using any kind of reusable bottle instead of a single-use bottle will pretty much always be the more sustainable option for our good old friend the planet. But if the reusable bottle is made from non-recycled materials, and is difficult to recycle once you’re finished with it, it will still end up causing quite a lot of environmental damage. And we say, enough with the environmental damage already, how about we do some cleaning up instead? 

    We reckon for a reusable bottle — or any product for that matter — to be truly sustainable, it should:

    • Be made from as much recycled material as possible. (That should help with the clean up)
    • Last a long time!
    • Be super easy to recycle into new products once you’re done with it. 

    This is why we’ve just released what we feel is the most environmentally friendly reusable drink bottle around; our reusable bottle made from bottles. A circular reusable bottle!

    Two Circular&Co. reusable water bottles sat between two people sitting next to water.

    Our new reusable water bottles, made from discarded single-use bottles!

    Here’s a few fun facts about our new circular bottles that we’re really quite proud of:

    • 92% of the material in each bottle comes from single-use bottles. So each bottle we make saves 14 single-use bottles from potentially ending up as waste.
    • These are sturdy drink bottles! We’ve designed them to last for at least 10 years.
    • When over a decade has passed and you’re a little older and greyer, no need to worry, because our bottles are 100% recyclable, and easy to recycle through curbside collection, or through our product takeback scheme.  

    Basically, we’ve designed these bottles in a way that repurposes existing waste into a valuable and useful product, and minimises the creation of new waste after the product has served its purpose. Because waste is only waste if you can’t find a way to use it, right? 

    We feel that choosing to produce and use products designed in this way is something we all need to start doing if we want to really clean up this lovely planet of ours for good. 

    And this is what ‘going circular’, and moving towards a circular economy is really all about.

    The Circular Economy, What’s That Then?

    Right now, the majority of our economy is made up of materials moving in straight lines. Straight lines of environmental destruction! 

    For the most part, precious resources and materials are taken out of the ground, used to make products, we use the products, and then we throw them away. As a lot of modern products can be quite difficult and costly to properly recycle, the resources and materials contained in these products often end up as worthless waste and pollution. Fresh materials are then extracted again to make new products, and another straight line of environmental destruction begins. This method of production and consumption is often referred to as ‘the linear economy’, and is basically the way things generally operate today. We know what you’re thinking; you’re never going to be able to look at straight lines the same way again now, but that’s okay, because circles are much better than straight lines anyway. Especially, the circular economy. 

    When we talk about moving towards a circular economy, we’re basically talking about taking these straight lines of planet-killing chaos and curving them around until one end meets the other. Using the ‘waste’ materials at the product disposal end of the line as resources to be used at the product production end of the line. (There is no such thing as waste!)

    Graphic depicting the difference between the linear economy and the circular economy.

    The comparison above gives you a basic idea of how the linear economy works, and how the circular economy should work.

    This is what we’ve tried to do with our reusable water bottles; using discarded single-use bottles as our main production material, and then designing our bottles to be 100% recyclable, and easy to recycle into new products. Which means years of hydration for you, and a healthier planet too.

    And this concept really isn’t just about reusable water bottles. We reckon that, when done properly, circular design like this really can be used to turn ‘waste’ into beautiful, useful, shiny new products that everyone can use and enjoy without so much as a hint of environmental guilt!

    Right now, the majority of our economy is made up of materials moving in straight lines. Straight lines of environmental destruction!

    Waste can become a terrifying dinosaur-shaped ghost of the past, and just like dinosaur bones themselves, we can leave virgin resources in the ground when producing new products.

    This is basically what we are looking to achieve by moving from a linear economy to a circular economy. 

    But of course, the world and the economy is a very complex thing, with lots of moving parts and vested interests involved. Adopting a more circular economy on a large scale is going to require a lot more than simply turning plastic waste into reusable drink bottles!

    So what is it that’s holding us back? Why haven’t we already moved to a circular economy?

    What’s Holding The Circular Economy Back?

    Because moving to a circular economy will require many products to be re-designed, and the way we ‘dispose’ of our products will have to be re-imagined, you could be forgiven for assuming that the main barriers to the circular economy are technical ones. But encouragingly, it seems this is not the case at all.

    Overhead view of white computer cable wrapped up in a circle.

    It seems if we can overcome cultural and market-related barriers, developing the technology for the circular economy shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash.

    According to some extensive research on barriers to the circular economy conducted by Deloitte and Utrecht University in the Netherlands, the most pressing barriers to the circular economy are cultural, and market-related barriers, with technological barriers not considered to be as much of an issue. (Could this mean that technology might actually end up working for once when we need it to???)

    (This research, conducted in 2017, involved a survey of 153 businesses and 53 government officials across the EU and the UK, with 82% of respondents working on the circular economy in their daily jobs. 47 expert interviews were also conducted with circular economy thought leaders from business, governments, academia and NGOs in addition to the survey. You would imagine these good folks know what they’re talking about!)

    The results of this research specifically suggest that the main factors preventing us from adopting a circular economy in Europe are: 

    • Company culture
    • Low virgin material prices
    • High upfront investment costs for circular business models
    • A lack of consumer interest and awareness

    Although these results are based on research published four years ago, unfortunately these barriers still remain, and it seems that companies, governments, us, you, we, our aunties, best mates, uncles, cousins, random folks we meet down the pub, and even our grannies can all play a part in overcoming them! As with most of the experts interviewed here agreeing that technological barriers are not the main barriers, it seems this might largely be a matter of the good old people of earth finding the right mindset.

    It seems that companies, governments, us, you, we, our aunties, best mates, uncles, cousins, random folks we meet down the pub, and even our grannies can all play a part in overcoming barriers to the circular economy!

    Finding the will, the strength, and the bottle to speak up, to change our individual mindsets, alter the culture of our organisations, adopt new consumption habits as consumers and demand that the companies we work for, the brands we buy from, and the politicians we vote for take the circular economy seriously! 

    Can we find the bottle to make these changes as individuals, and as a collective? 

    We think the answer to that question is a resounding YES! 

    (And you know, choosing a reusable water bottle made from bottles isn’t a bad start ;) )

    Beyond Reusable Water Bottles: What Can We All Do To Make The Circular Economy Possible?

    Planet earth as seen from space, half in daylight, and half in the dark of night. Sunlight over African continent.

    We’ve all got a role to play if we want to make our economy circular and take care of the planet we all call home. Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay.

    We’re all in this together. Transforming our economy for the good of the planet is going to require input, effort, change, probably a little sprinkle of sacrifice, and collaboration between all of us. Industry, governments, and regular folks — basically all human beings :o — have all got a role to play, and like everything in this world, those roles are all interconnected. 

    But what can each of us really do to help make the circular economy possible?

    What Can Industry Do?

    At Circular&Co. we believe that change should be triggered by industry. The companies and brands that produce all our products and put them on the market are ultimately the ones who decide how these products are designed, and therefore, what we can do with them once they’ve served their purpose. To help give society a nice gentle (or maybe not so gentle?) push towards circularity, we feel companies can do a number of things, both internally and externally:

    Transforming Company Culture

    Research suggests that one of the main factors preventing the circular economy from taking shape is the culture that exists within many established companies. 

    It seems that in many companies there is a lack of collaboration and integration between different departments, with circular economy discussions only really taking place within the CSR and environmental departments. This may partly be due to a general lack of circular economy-related knowledge throughout organisations as a whole, or it could be that the circular economy just isn’t quite a raunchy enough topic to make it into the water cooler gossip chat!  (Maybe if other departments did jump in on the circular economy discussions this lack of circular knowledge/gossip would no longer be an issue!)

    With many established companies also having a ‘risk-averse’ attitude when it comes to innovation and company evolution, it’s easy to see why embracing the circular economy might not be at the top of their to-do list. (Especially if they barely even know what the circular economy really is!) 

    Research suggests that one of the main factors preventing the circular economy from taking shape is the culture that exists within many established companies.

    Of course, all of this can change, but this change must come from within. Here’s how we think it can happen:

    • Educate educate educate!: 

    The first step towards making any company more ‘culturally-circular’ must surely be to educate everybody associated with the company about the circular economy, and why it’s so important. 

    From senior execs, to managers, to interns, to folks who are just about trembling their way through the first round of interviews; if everyone from top-to-bottom has a comprehensive understanding of circular economy principles, then conversations about how the organisation might adopt circular thinking can start flowing at all levels within the company. 

    • Get departments talking to each other (and not just on their coffee breaks):

    Issues like sustainability and the circular economy should not be boxed off in a corner for the poor old CSR department to deal with! For a company to incorporate circularity throughout their business model, everybody needs to be involved, and all departments must work together to make it happen. 

    Circular thinking will need to become paramount during R&D, financial forecasting, materials procurement and product design, throughout the supply chain, and in the companies communication strategy. Basically, for the circular transition to be an overall success, it’s imperative that all company sections and departments are on the same page. A strong culture of internal communication and collaboration will be needed. Even the office plants should be thinking about circularity!

    • Widen the scope of possibility (and get heads out of boxes!): 

    Adopting a circular business model requires a little more disruption within an organisation than putting 10% recycled content in the latest product’s packaging. If a company wants to truly ready itself for the circular economy, it may have to push the boundaries of what it has previously considered possible. 

    Dark grey cat sitting in open rectangular cardboard box with its head poking out the top.

    Adopting a more circular culture will probably require businesses start pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box. Who knows, it may very well end up making the world a better place for all of us. Including this cat! Photo by Luku Muffin on Unsplash.

    This will likely involve moving towards a culture where people are encouraged to embrace risk, and to think outside the box. But with the right collective application, this kind of culture and mindset could be the key for companies to thrive in the near future, when hopefully, the circular economy starts to become the norm.

    Push the Circular Conversation

    If consumers are generally unaware, or uninterested in the circular economy right now, maybe it’s up to brands to spark a little interest! There seems to be a reluctance at the moment from brands to focus their marketing communications on the circular economy, with most eco-conscious brands still talking more about sustainability in general.

    As brands start doing more to make their business models more circular, they should do everything they can to engage and educate their customers about why transitioning to a circular economy is so important. 

    If all the big brands start putting the circular economy front and centre of their communication strategies, creating hard-hitting, memorable ad campaigns and maybe getting some popular famous folks involved as well, surely it won’t be long before the whole world is talking about the circular economy?

    Make Circular Products That People Want!

    Big companies need to start taking circular design seriously, and start doing all they can to produce high-quality, desirable, affordable circular products. It’s much more likely that circularity will take over from the destructive linear model in the near future if this happens.

    Sparking some interest in the circular economy will of course be a whole lot easier if there’s a whole bunch of top quality circular offerings for folks to choose from, and making this happen is entirely up to the industry side of the circular coin! 

    Big companies need to start taking circular design seriously, and start doing all they can to produce high-quality, desirable, affordable circular products. It’s much more likely that circularity will take over from the destructive linear model in the near future if this happens.

    Circular Startups Can Lead the Way

    Pretty much everything we’ve suggested so far has been about how big established companies can evolve and transform and become more circular, but if they don’t fancy listening to our advice, not to worry, as there’s already plenty of wonderful circular-focused startups showing them how it’s done. 

    These kinds of trailblazing startups, that have incorporated circular thinking in everything they do from the very beginning, can act as a guide and an inspiration to some of the more established players within their industries. 

    Let’s hope the big boys listen carefully to the new, circular kids on the block!

    What Can Governments Do?

    The main thing governments can do to make the circular economy possible is to pass legislation that makes it easier for circular business models to succeed. Thankfully, in Europe at least, this already seems to be happening.

    In March last year, the EU released the ‘new circular economy action plan’ which aims to encourage sustainable consumption and promote circular economy processes throughout Europe in the coming years. This plan contains various legislation and initiatives which focus on promoting sustainable product design, helping to implement circularity in production processes, and creating a well-functioning EU market for secondary raw materials, among many other planet-healing, circular-shaped things.

    Three European union flags flying from right to left with blue sky and buildings in the background.

    The EU has a circle of stars in its flag. Could it also be leading the way when it comes to implementing circular economy-friendly legislation? Photo by ALEXANDRE LALLEMAND on Unsplash.

    This really does seem like a very comprehensive plan, and we hope it might go a long way to breaking down two of those dastardly barriers to the circular economy in Europe we mentioned earlier; low virgin material prices, and high upfront investment costs for circular business models. Creating that well-functioning EU market for secondary raw materials certainly sounds like a good start!

    China also released a 5-year circular economy plan earlier this year, and if other governing bodies around the world work to develop similar strategies — and actually implement them — it’ll really be a huge boost in the global push towards circularity.

    It’s also essential that governments work together internationally to make it happen. (Let’s keep our fingers crossed on that one!)

    What Can All Us Regular Humans Do?

    Eventually, companies and brands around the world will have to start embracing circularity at least on some level. Whether they decide to jump ahead of the curve and do it now, or wait until governments pass legislation that requires them to become more circular, one way or another, it seems it is going to happen. But with all the environmental issues going on in the world right now, time is of the essence! 

    And one way to absolutely guarantee that brands start taking the circular economy seriously as soon as possible, is for all us regular earthlings to start voting with our wallets, and demanding circular products. Unfortunately, this may not be quite as simple as choosing to buy a reusable water bottle over a disposable one. It’s going to mean making a few significant changes to our lives:

    • Education time:

    As we hopefully start hearing more and more about the circular economy in the near future, people can help to bring it into the mainstream by learning as much as we can about what it is and why it’s so important. By educating ourselves about circular design and how it works, we’ll be able to recognise which products are genuinely designed for circularity, and which ones are merely imposters! 

    One way to absolutely guarantee that brands start taking the circular economy seriously as soon as possible, is for all us regular earthlings to start voting with our wallets, and demanding circular products.

    This will give us the power to put pressure on brands to become more circular, by voting with our wallets. 

    • Re-thinking our buying habits:

    Embracing circularity as customers is about buying differently, as well as just choosing the most sustainable product on offer. For the circular economy to work, products should be made to last a long time, repaired whenever possible, and be reused and repurposed before we ever think about throwing them away. 

    Circularity, after all, is about getting the maximum value out of our resources, and that involves more than just designing recyclable products out of recycled materials. It also involves minimising resource and energy usage along every step of the product’s life cycle. 

    This means we may have to start wearing that super-durable funky jumper for a few seasons longer, even if it’s not quite so fashionable anymore. We might even have to go get our 5-year-old not-so-state-of-the-art TV repaired instead of buying that flashy new one we’ve had our eye on for a while. 

    It might not be easy, but to make the circular economy possible, we might all have to start buying less stuff, and cherishing the well-made things we already have. And making them last. 

    • A whole new mindset: 

    And this idea of learning to cherish what we already have — and the resources and materials present in these items — could be the change in mindset we all need to adopt if we want to make the circular economy truly possible. 

    If we can start finding as much pleasure in this challenge as we get from buying new products today, we’ll be well on our way to circularity in no time. 

    But, have we really got the bottle to do it?

    Have We Really Got The Bottle To Go Circular?

    Circular Reusable Water Bottle Range

    Have we got the bottle to go way beyond our reusable bottle made from bottles, and make our whole economy circular? 

    It seems pretty clear that moving entirely from a linear economy to a circular one will not be in any way easy, or simple.

    It’s going to be a complex journey that will require significant effort from all of us. We will all have to evolve, make sacrifices, make changes that will affect our everyday lives, and ultimately, change the way we value our resources. We will have to find a way to adopt a much more circular mindset. 

    Encouragingly though, the research we’ve looked at in this article certainly seems to suggest that if we can find the will and the courage to do it, in Europe at least, we should have the technological capabilities to make the circular economy a reality. With international co-operation and collaboration, there’s no reason this can’t be the case for the rest of the world as well.

    So, have we got the bottle to really go circular for good? 

    That remains to be seen. But if we can manage to find it, it probably won’t be too long before our reusable bottle made from bottles, is no more circular than all the other products on the shelf.

    This article was created by Adam Millett of Word Chameleon, in collaboration with Circular&Co.

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