In the circular economic model, governments, consumers and companies focus on reusing materials. It’s one way to tackle the question of how to reduce waste. By taking the circular economy approach, the world could reduce global carbon dioxide emissions from top industries—cement, aluminum, steel, plastics and food—by 40%, or 3.7 billion tons, by 2050.
To form a sustainable economy, governments can apply the circular economic model to building, demolition and office materials. They can also educate and incentivize the public to adopt this approach as well. Read on for ideas.
What a circular economy looks like
How is a circular economy different from what we do now? Currently, our global economy takes a linear approach of take-make-waste. This is where we take raw materials from the earth, make a product and then throw it away after using it. In a circular economy, the goal is to throw nothing away and reduce the need for purchasing new commodities. It’s about reusing and repurposing as much as possible.
Designate reuse areas
Helping your community’s residents understand a circular economy can help change their mindset from throwing items away to how to keep them out of the landfill. To make it easy for businesses and consumers to reduce waste, governments can designate areas to drop off used products. Set aside a day where other residents can pick up those products for free. Or see if local nonprofits can put the items to use.
For example, south of the border in Houston, Texas, they built a “Reuse Warehouse” for companies to drop off building material, such as wood. On average, the warehouse diverts between 40 and 50 tons of material per month. Of all the material that comes in, 99% is taken away by nonprofits.
H2: Reuse heavy equipment parts
Besides reusing building materials, heavy machinery is another area where governments can work to refurbish parts. When a piece of equipment has worn out, there are often usable parts left. Consider salvaging and reusing functional parts from old machinery rather than buying new ones.
Reuse construction and demolition materials
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) encourages all of its member countries, including Canada, to promote a Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) approach to help reuse everything from the metals in mobile devices to household plastic to construction materials. It urges governments to evolve from a “cradle-to-the-grave” mindset to a “cradle-to-cradle” focus that views waste as a potential resource. For the construction industry in particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the United States provides ideas on how to use fewer materials, which materials are best for salvaging, and how to find a recycler nearby.
Educate residents on how to reduce and reuse
Showing residents how to reduce waste in their everyday lives is a great way to start implementing a circular economy. How can you do that?
- Host and support awareness-raising events, virtually or in-person.
- Distribute reusable giveaways, like face masks, reusable shopping totes and sport bottles, to residents who attend events, participate in drop-offs/pick-ups, or contact you for more info.
- Set up a section of your website dedicated to education and implementation ideas.
Reduce waste, one step at a time
Knowing how to reduce waste starts by focusing on long-term use and reuse. By salvaging parts, reusing building materials and educating the public, you can be on the road to a circular economy.