Waste and the Circular Economy
In the UK, 544 million tonnes of materials are consumed per year. We currently live in a society where the goods we make are used for a certain period of time and then disposed of. Whether it is upgrading to the latest smartphone, laptop or TV, the latest gadgets are not designed to be re-used or re-purposed. Zero Waste Scotland estimates that some raw materials used to make various products such as smartphones, computers and clothing may run out within the next 40 years at current levels of consumption.
In short, the current economic model of Make, Consume, and Dispose is unsustainable and damaging to the environment. However the alternative of a Circular Economy can be a sustainable option as it encourages more efficient use of resources and can help to protect the environment by reducing waste and decreasing the environmental damage of production and consumption.
The circular economy proposes that products and materials should be used for as long as possible in order the get most value out of them. Then when these products are at the end of their life-cycle, the used product will be disassembled so the raw materials and components can be re-used to make something else. According to Wrap, adopting a circular economy is important as it could hold many positive benefits;
- A reduction in waste.
- Resources being produced and used more efficiently.
- Decreasing the environmental damage caused by production and consumption.
A circular economy could help to make a dent in the amount of waste we produce. At the moment in the UK, we produce large amounts of food and clothes waste. Love Your Clothes estimates that around 350,000 tonnes (£140 million worth) of used clothes is sent to landfill every year in the UK. Over 5% of the UK’s total annual carbon and water footprint comes from clothes consumption. If people were to extend their clothes lifespan for just nine months longer this would result in a 20-30% decrease in carbon, water and waste footprints. In households across the UK nearly a third of clothes have not been used within the last year.
In Scotland, we throw away 600,000 tonnes of food and drink per year and majority of it could have been eaten. According to Love Food Hate Waste, this costs us over £1 billion and for the average household it costs £460. The production of food also has an impact on the environment as the distributing and storing of food uses energy and fuel. Each of these processes creates greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. If we reduced the amount of good food that it is thrown away it could save up to 17 million tonnes of carbon dioxide.
Adopting a circular economy holds a number of positive opportunities for both the reduction of waste and the health of the environment. It encourages us to use our resources more efficiently, whether that be the clothes we own or the food we buy. Greener Kirkcaldy are holding a variety of Too Good To Waste events in August that you may want to take part in – see their events page for more details.|