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imagination to drive the circular economy

The more than 100,000 million tons of waste generated each year affect the 1º increase in temperature, indicates Cicle Economy. Photo: ..

From use and throw away to restore, regenerate and reuse. This is the basis on which the expansion of the circular economy in the world has been supported to improve efficiency in the use of resources in our productive, extractive and consumer activities. Progress, in any case, is still slow: according to the Circle Economy organization in its report The Circularity Gap 2020, currently only 8.6% of the world economy is circular, when two years ago it was 9.1%.

Three of the reasons this organization cites are high extraction rates; ongoing stock build-up and increasing (but still low) levels of processing and end-of-use cycle. More than 100 billion tons of materials enter the global economy each year, a figure never before seen on the planet; Of these, only 8,600 million tons are being reused, even though in recent years this last figure has been increasing and it is estimated that in 2021 it will reach 9,000 million tons.

In this panorama, we see cases of reuse of waste and waste that invite us to believe that these statistics will continue to increase. Some of them, curious and perhaps exotic, realize that sometimes with creativity and resourcefulness, using, restoring and reusing is possible.

Here we present some current cases.

1. They recover damaged mobile devices and resell them

There are more cell phones than people on the planet. The Ibero-American Telecommunications Organization (OTI) estimates that there are more than 7,700 million devices, and many of them contribute to the more than 50 million tons per year of technological waste that is generated in the world, according to the UN. However, in countries like Mexico only 2.4% is recycled, says the National Telecommunications Association.

This has led to the emergence of companies that care about their recovery and reuse. The Chilean startup Rephone has focused on the reconditioning of cellular devices damaged by battery, ignition or other causes, to prevent them from being thrown away and, instead, return to the market in optimal conditions for reuse.

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“We reuse the equipment instead of discarding it. For each new cell phone produced, an average of 80 kilos of CO2 are emitted. A reconditioned cell phone, on the other hand, only emits 8 kilos,” the company explains on its website.

2. Surplus food is no longer a waste

The Inter-American Development Bank reports that more than 127 million tons of food are lost in Latin America each year. One of the largest contributions is represented by consumption in hotels, restaurants and homes, in which waste is close to 28%.

To reduce these margins, and as a business model that has been growing, technological platforms have emerged that have contributed to the resale of surpluses generated by these establishments with prices lower than those originally established in their offer.

Some of the best known applications or entities are LastFood, Too Good to Go or Fair Meals. These allow restaurants, hotels and other establishments to offer these surpluses of daily food – following strict quality controls to sell food in optimal conditions of hygiene and sanitation -, helping to mitigate waste and to recirculate their preparations, generating new income for merchants.

3. Resale and rental of used clothing

The textile industry is one of those that has the greatest contribution to impact on the environment. Only the production of jean pants consumes about 7,500 liters of water and every year half a million tons of microfiber are thrown into the sea, which is equivalent to 3 million barrels of oil, denounces the UN.

One of the alternative solutions that have emerged in the industry is the reuse of clothing, reselling it after use or sharing it. There are many companies that allow your purchase. There are applications such as eBay, Mercado Libre or Amazon, but there are other more specialized ones such as GoTrendier or Segunda Mano, which operate in certain countries.

Platforms have also been created where clothing can be rented according to the occasion of use. Urban Outfitters launched Nuuly, a subscription service in the US in which, with a monthly payment, the user can choose up to six combinations of garments from a catalog of brands with more than a thousand options.

4. Beer from bread scraps

In the same vein of reducing food waste, the British startup Toast Ale has created beers made with surplus bread with which they replace virgin barley, thus reducing the use of land (171 thousand square meters less), water (252 thousand liters less) and energy, and avoiding the emission of up to 42 tons of carbon emissions.

For now, their shipments are only available in the UK, but the idea could be replicated elsewhere to promote the reuse of surplus food.

5. Clothes made from the waste of oranges and milk

In the textile industry there have been cases in which garments are made from plastic waste, but recently some companies have innovated to the point that the Italian Orange Fiber patented the use of citrus juice fibers to make sustainable clothing . This innovation was recognized in 2019 by H&M, which included its products in one of its collections, in which only recycled and sustainable materials were used.

“Our fabrics are made from a silk-like cellulose yarn that can be mixed with other materials. When used in its purest form, the resulting 100% citrus fabric has a silky smooth, lightweight feel and can be opaque or shiny. based on production needs, “Orange Fiber notes on its website.

Also in Italy, another company has also focused on the use of fibers from organic waste to allow the textile industry to mitigate its environmental impact.

Due di Latte produces sustainable yarns and fabrics based on classic amino acids derived from casein from milk and other natural raw materials. In his country, says the company, around 30 million tons of milk are wasted, therefore its objective was to reuse that surplus “through a manufacturing process that marries the principles of circular economy and environmental sustainability, with productive activities of very low impact and that enhance the resources of our territory without exploiting it “.

The circular economy in action.

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