The Loop

I can’t believe I am writing this, but here comes the first-ever issue of The Loop! 🥳

Today, I am going to expand on my best post in 2024: My 10 lessons in circular economy after 10 years.

Circularity is such a powerful idea, but why has it been this slow?

My biggest problem with the circular economy is that most people get it wrong.

It’s not about the recycling.

It’s all about not producing waste in the first place.

Since I got so many comments on all 10 lessons, I wanted to expand, providing more context, resources, and references.

1. Forget recycling

We were told that somehow, everything you throw away will come back to you in the same shape and form, like magic. All you need to do is to throw it in the right bin.

But not everything is designed to be recycled. Not everything gets collected. The market for recycled content is picky. Not to mention huge losses during the actual process.

That’s why we have to avoid things going to waste. We need to keep things in use for longer, with the help of other “Rs”, like reuse, repair, or remanufacturing.

2. Procurement is the king tool

It hit me when I was helping Prague. The city has a € 4 billion yearly budget. Instead of haggling with bureaucrats for 100k for another study, why not lease 50,000 policy uniforms, instead of buying them? Ask for recycled concrete when building a new neighborhood?

Every circular procurement sends a powerful message to the market, and businesses innovate at warp speed. You don’t need the parliament to approve. Just a few well-written lines in a standard tender, and voilá, circularity is born.

3. The “greenest” countries are often the least circular.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the Nordics. It’s beautiful here. And many things are sustainable – the grid, the mobility, the social aspects. But the individual consumption is too high. If everyone lived like the Danes, we’d need 4.2 planets to exist. Check out the “Overshoot day“ and your country.

4. Everyone talks about circularity. Few are doing it.

In a world full of reports, and empty claims, the real action is harder to spot. A lot of brands are even afraid to communicate because when they do, it often lashes back. My advice: walk the talk. Be authentic. Avoid greenwashing. But please, communicate. We want to know what’s going on.

5. Forget the plastic straws. It’s about mass and material flows.

Focus on the elephants in the room. At Circle Economy, we’ve worked with 50+ cities. When you follow the mass (and that’s where the CO2 and $ are hidden,) it always points you to these 3 sectors: construction, food, and mobility. Focus on those for impact at scale.

6. It won’t matter if we consume more than we should.

If we “need” 30 pairs of sustainable shoes, we are still going nowhere. If we don’t challenge consumerism, it won’t matter if we are circular. We will always be trying to catch a train that: a) moves faster and b) is going in the wrong direction.

7. Circularity is a global movement. But we’ve never been less circular.

This is the key summary from the Circularity Gap Report 2024. In 5 years, our economy gobbled up 500 gigatonnes of resources. Between 2018 – 2023, consumption rose by 28%. Grab it here for more details, and advice on what to do.

8. It all starts with the design.

80% of the product’s environmental impact is locked there. Design is the most important, yet inaccessible department in every company I’ve worked with 🥲. Everything else is incremental. If we want to go circular, we need to design for 5Rs and closed loops.

9. Circular economy is a niche full of amazing people. Join us!

Yeah, but HOW? That comment got so many likes, so I compiled some quick pieces of advice and shared them here.

10. Actions speak louder than words.

What we need are results and solutions. Go and build some today! Nothing more to add here 😛.

BONUS: Start looking at the world “in circles”. I know it sounds fuzzy, but I got that advice 10 years ago. Suddenly, I saw a world of opportunities, and it continues to this day.

Ok, that’s it for now.

20 February 2024

Other issues of The Loop

Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

04 May 2024

Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

27 April 2024

Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

20 April 2024

Design is at the heart of the circular economy.

13 April 2024