As consumers, we may not think about how buying and throwing away products impact the environment and economy. But it’s very important for us to implement the circular economy in everyday life. Here’s why: The average person buys everything from food and electronics to health and beauty products. Over a few days or years, they use these items and then dispose of what’s left.
This can include packages and bottles, spoiled portions, and defective or non-working items. Some people may recycle electronics, clothing, or magazines instead of just throwing them out. However, this isn’t a guarantee those materials won’t eventually end up in a landfill somewhere.
The circular economy is a concept and practice that’s looking to change all that. The goal of the circular economy is to create a more sustainable future by keeping materials and products in use. An example is repurposing clothing material or using reusable drinking cups instead of buying water in plastic bottles.
Here are 4 tips to Implement the Circular Economy in Everyday Life
1 // Compost Biodegradable Waste
Composting is a way to reuse biodegradable food waste and some plastics. For instance, some packages and plastics contain plant-based materials that break down. Instead of throwing things like banana peels and orange peels in the trash, turning them into compost repurposes the waste.
Composting at Home
The compost can then become fertilizer for a home garden or yard. Companies may also want to use compost as fuel for vehicles. Also known as biogas, fuel from organic matter like compost can fuel commercial vehicles and buses. Waste management companies, in particular, can turn collected food scraps and biodegradable materials into fuel for their fleet.
Composting at the Local Waste Company
If you don’t want to compost at home, consider contacting local waste management companies to see if they sponsor a program. You might be able to deposit food scraps and other biodegradable materials into a separate bin for your weekly trash service. It’s a hassle-free way to keep these items out of landfills.
2 // Participate in Buyback Programs
Some manufacturers offer buyback programs for items we normally dispose of after a few uses. Think disposable razors that are made out of plastic. Not only do the razors end up in the trash, but so does the packaging. When you keep buying products like these, there’s more waste for trash companies to pick up, and more plastic sits in landfills.
A few alternatives to plastic disposable razors exist. The most obvious is investing in an electric razor you can use over and over again. However, electric razors can sometimes be problematic. Many rely on batteries you must replace unless you get the rechargeable kind. In addition, electric razors last a long time, but they don’t last forever.
Sending Used Items Back to the Manufacturer
Manufacturers that make electric and stainless steel razors with buyback programs are ways to ensure materials get properly recycled and reused. Instead of throwing away razors that reach the end of their lifecycles, the company buys them back. You send the used product(s) back in for new replacements, and the manufacturer repurposes what they can.
Buying Items Made of Repurposed Materials
Some manufacturers of everyday household items also use repurposed (and not virgin) materials and products to produce new ones. For instance, you can purchase household cleaners made from organic and recycled food waste. The containers are often made out of repurposed biodegradable material as well.
3 // Use Reusable Containers
One of the easiest ways to implement the circular economy in everyday life is with reusable containers. Now, this does require some thinking and planning. For example, you can bring reusable shopping bags to grocery stores instead of relying on a store’s plastic or paper bags. You might also try shopping at farmers’ markets or using delivery programs.
Switch to Services that Use Recycled Materials
For instance, home milk delivery and meal kits often use recycled and reused materials. You won’t be buying plastic jugs of milk every week to throw away. The milk delivery person will pick up the bottles or containers to reuse and repurpose. Meal kits include packaging that’s already recycled, but you can recycle it again.
Recycle Items Again
Simply place the boxes and packaging in your recycle bin for your trash company. Alternatively, you can take everything to a recycling center. Some people save a few of the ice packs to use in their picnic coolers or for first aid at home. Others follow the meal kit company’s instructions for recycling them. Even old watches can be recycled.
Switch to Reusable Items
And while you can recycle many bottled water containers, you can go a step further. Install a water filter at home and use washable mugs and drinking cups. Many refrigerators have a filter feature, or you can install an under-the-sink filter or use a portable filter jug. Avoid all single-use items.
4 // Buy and Trade Clothing Through Consignment Shops
About 85% of clothing items U.S. consumers throw away end up in landfills or are burned. Globally, 92 million tons of textile materials become trash every year. That’s an unsustainable rate as it is, and will only grow as the world’s population increases. Adding to the problem is the fact that polyester is a popular material for fashion items and clothing manufacturers.
The Polyester Problem
Polyester comes from fossil fuels and doesn’t break down as easily as biodegradable materials do. That said, it can be tricky for people to know what to do with clothes they no longer wear or need. When it comes time for a wardrobe refresh, shopping online or in traditional clothing stores is the go-to option for many. It’s also easier to throw away used items in the trash.
Buy from Secondhand & Thrift Stores
Consignment shops are a viable alternative that can help recycle and repurpose used clothing. As long as fashion items are in good condition, sell or give them to a consignment store. Then, look through the other clothing they have to refresh most of your wardrobe. You might be surprised to find some never-worn items from name-brand designers.
Putting the Circular Economy into Practice
As the world’s population grows, the ways we consume products will grow more unsustainable. Switching to a circular economy is a way to accommodate the modern lifestyle and environmental needs. Easily accessible practices for most consumers include composting, buyback programs, reusable containers, and consignment shops.
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