Replacing the “Take-Make-Waste” Model with Sustainable Supply Chains

Stanford Business, July 18, 2022; | by Seb Murray.   To access full article click here.

The switch to a circular economy could protect the environment while helping companies generate more value.

In 1924, a cartel of lightbulb manufacturers including General Electric and Philips agreed to artificially limit the lifespan of their products to about 1,000 hours, down from 2,500. The scandal, revealed decades later, came to epitomize the linear consumption model of making, consuming, and then discarding products that took hold during the Industrial Revolution and has been dominant ever since.

It may have enriched individual firms, but this system is reaching a dead end. It’s economically inefficient and environmentally damaging. Its costs range from the pollution of air, land, and water to sharp fluctuations in the prices of raw materials and potential disruptions to supply chains.

“The linear model depletes the planet of its natural resources, it damages ecosystems, and creates lots of waste and pollution in the process. It’s an unsustainable model. It cannot continue,” says Barchi Gillai, the associate director of the Value Chain Innovation Initiative at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

In a new white paper, Gillai and her colleagues find that a growing number of companies are realizing the urgency of shifting their operations toward circularity. This means designing products for durability and recyclability, reducing material requirements, consuming fewer resources in manufacturing and shipping, and keeping items in circulation to boost their lifespan.

And the transition to a circular economy need not come at an economic cost; it can help companies generate more value from the resources they consume. With fewer mines, landfills, and incinerators, and more trees, the circular economy reduces waste and environmental harm. But there are several business benefits, too — lower operating costs, reduced supply chain risks, additional revenue streams, and access to new markets.

“Through embracing circular principles, companies are not only reducing harm but increasing value for society,” says Hau Lee, a professor of operations, information and technology at Stanford GSB and the study’s principal investigator.

From Trash to Treasure

The forecasts for making the change are compelling: According to the UN Environment Programme, more efficient use of natural resources could add $2 trillion to the global economy by 2050. The benefits would be significant for poorer countries, which must prepare for an increase in waste as their middle class grows, says Lee.

Research shows the circular economy could generate up to 4.8 million net new jobsopen in new window in Latin America and the Caribbean alone by 2030. And these jobs, in areas such as reprocessing wood, steel, aluminum, and other metals, are likely to far outweigh the job destruction associated with extractive industries because the circular value chain is longer and more employment-intensive.

Through embracing circular principles, companies are not only reducing harm but increasing value for society.
Hau Lee

So why have so many companies chosen to pursue the throwaway model? For those in sectors such as fossil fuels, minerals, agricultural produce, and other primary materials, it has been good for the bottom line. And in the developed world, Gillai says, it can be easy to forget that the food we eat and the goods we buy are taking a toll on the natural world. During the four-decade march of globalization, rich countries have exported much of their waste to poorer nations.

“The take-make-waste model is causing a lot of social injustice. It is disproportionately affecting underserved communities,” says Caroline Lingopen in new window, MBA ’22, who coauthored the report with VCII.

The need to decouple economic activity from the consumption of finite resources has come into sharp relief in the past few decades with climate change, resource scarcity, loss of biodiversity, waste, and pollution. According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, circular economy practices can help tackle 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

But companies face numerous challenges in incorporating circular economy principles into their operations. Lee says consumers may be reluctant to change their buying habits, especially when that involves paying a premium for “green” products or buying secondhand goods.

This can make it hard for firms to justify the large upfront capital investment that may be required to transition to circular operations, particularly when it involves replacing expensive pieces of equipment that have plenty of life yet in them. Over time, economies of scale will bring production costs down, but encouraging customers to consume less is likely to have a negative impact on revenue, at least in the short term. Lee recommends that companies first look for innovations that can be implemented with modest investments and offer a short payback period. They can also look for opportunities to offer repair, maintenance, and upgrades that will generate additional revenues over time.

Circular Reasoning

Many businesses don’t fully understand the circular economy, including how to identify the best opportunities to pursue the alternative materials, processes, technologies, and talent required to make the shift. Internal and external education campaigns and collaborations within and across organizations will be critical to yield the full benefits of circular value chains, according to the VCII paper.

Ling says even the best-intentioned initiatives can suffer unintended consequences such as higher carbon emissions from the extra transportation and packaging necessary to support a sharing economy and keep products in circulation. “You need to do extensive due diligence through tools such as life-cycle assessments to get the full picture,” she says.

Business leaders who want to steer their organizations toward circularity should start by securing the commitment of C-level executives and establishing goals around which the entire firm can align, such as reducing emissions, water consumption, or reliance on virgin materials. Gillai says there is no “silver bullet,” but designing out waste, extending products’ lifespan, and designing for recyclability (including packaging) are important components of the circular value chain. Companies can also reduce pollution in their operations by sourcing pre-used or recyclable materials, switching to renewable energy, and reusing waste in their manufacturing processes.

It’s also important to share the success stories and lessons learned with colleagues and other business partners. “The most circular companies are not just creating products that are better or making sure they last longer and are more recyclable; they are also influencing their suppliers in order to create wider change,” Lee says. Consider Apple, which uses recycled gold, tungsten, cobalt, and rare earth elements in its products. It has attempted to spur industry-wide change by reporting its environmental progress and encouraging suppliers to use clean power.

But business alone cannot win this battle. Our economic systems — consumer behaviors, physical infrastructure, scientific technologies, incentives, regulation, and policy — are still geared for the linear model. Implementing the principles of the circular economy on a global scale will take collaborative action by all stakeholders, the VCII report’s authors argue. That includes investors who mobilize capital flows needed to fund the transition, governments who steer actions through fiscal policy, and consumers who are prepared to act on their concerns about the climate and environment.

“A huge amount of work lies ahead, and there are many challenges, but if we all do our share and understand the need for change, we can be successful in our transition from a linear to a circular economy — and leave future generations a better world to live in,” Gillai says.


Coors Light phasing out 6-pack plastic rings

Supply Chain Dive, Published March 10, 2022; , Senior Reporter

Coors Light will begin moving out of plastic rings this year from its packaging globally where parent Molson Coors owns the brewing operations in favor of fully recyclable and sustainably sourced cardboard-wrap carriers.

  1. To support the move to more sustainable packaging, Molson Coors said it will invest $85 million in its operations. The money will enable Coors Light to start the transition while allowing Molson Coors to upgrade machinery to allow its entire North American portfolio — covering more than 30 brands that currently use plastic rings — to use cardboard wrap carriers by the end of 2025.
  2. Many sustainability-minded food companies, from Nestlé and PepsiCo to General Mills and AB InBev, have improved their packaging to help them meet their own environmental goals.
  3. Coors Light would be the largest beer brand in North America to move away from plastic rings, Molson Coors said.

Click here for access to the full article.

17 innovators helping accelerate the transition to a global circular economy

The European Sting, March 24, 2022 by 

The Circulars Accelerator, a programme led by Accenture in partnership with Anglo American and Ecolab, is looking to source innovative solutions that advance the transition to a global circular economy.

  1. Aquacycl has developed a modular, onsite wastewater treatment technology that reduces up to 90% of organic carbon and reduces wastewater management costs by 20% to 60%. The technology can then generate direct electricity from ultra-high strength organic wastewater.
  2. Done Properly is a biotechnology company with a patent-pending proprietary fermentation technology which upcycles industrial by-products into a new generation of 100% natural ingredients.
  3. ECOLOO is an award-winning, patented, off-grid, water-free and energy-free toilet. ECOLOO makes use of bacterial culture to process human waste into odour-free and sanitized fertilizer.
  4. GreenPlat is a technology company that offers an online Blockchain as a Service (BaaS) software, accelerating sustainable production and reverse logistics management.
  5. Green Mining has developed an intelligent reverse logistics technology to recover post-consumer packaging before it reaches landfill, tracking material flows digitally to efficiently retrieve post-consumer packaging and bring it back into the production cycle.
  6. I-Drop designs, builds and installs self-service, purified and connected refill drinking water dispensers based on circular economy principles.
  7. Kudoti offers a digital platform that tracks waste supply chains end-to-end in real time, matching it with demand from recyclers to boost recycling rates.
  8. Lizee provides software as a service (SaaS) and certified logistics services for brands and retailers to quickly deploy and scale their most powerful re-commerce offers.
  9. Mr. Green Africa has built a tech-driven plastics recycling system which recycles plastic-waste into high-quality raw materials.
  10. Mycocyle is a patent-pending Process as a Service (PaaS) using fungi to remove toxins from landfill-bound waste, creating a renewable biomaterial that can be used to manufacture new products and reduce carbon output.
  11. Polycare is a circular construction company, which licences the technology to produce ‘Polyblocks’, reusable, zero-waste building blocks made of circular inputs and stronger than conventional concrete.
  12. Queen of Raw is a blockchain enabled marketplace for deadstock fabric, connecting underutilized textile resources with demand while reducing costs, carbon emissions and waste.
  13. RE develop smart returnable packaging as a service that brands can lease, and consumers can use and return for reuse or refill instead of adding to landfill.
  14. Reflauntis a technology company that helps brands and consumers to resell their branded clothing without having to leave the brand’s website.
  15. Rice Afrika is a technology platform that connects all stakeholders across the Nigerian rice value chain, providing rural farmers with modern, eco-friendly, and efficient harvesting machines to cut exploitation and waste.
  16. Saathi has developed a patented technology to make biodegradable sanitary pads using banana and bamboo fibres taken from agricultural waste.
  17. Topolytics is a data aggregation and analytics business that helps organisations analyse and track their waste, helping to make the world’s waste visible, verifiable and valuable.


Click here for full access to the article.

How crop waste can rewrite the rules of solar power

The Print, DOUGLAS BROOM, 3 April, 2022 03:01 pm IST

Solar power is a key climate solution and is already the lowest cost option for increasing electricity generating capacity. Harnessing it is key.

  • But solar panels produce less power when the sun doesn’t shine.
  • A new material, derived from crop waste, means they can generate more power even on dull days.
  • Made from fruit and vegetable waste, the material uses naturally occurring luminescent particles which capture ultraviolet rays and then emit the energy as visible light.
  • Nine crops have been crushed to extract juice from which the naturally luminescent particles are extracted,

Click here for access to the full article.

Cisco launches circular IT payment solution to support customer sustainability goals

Cisco Systems, Inc. 11 Apr, 2022, 23:09 BST

  • Cisco Green Pay offers a 5% incentive on Cisco hardware at the outset and free product returns.
  • When the equipment is returned, the customer receives a certificate confirming that it has entered the circular economy.
  • Accelerates Cisco’s commitment to 100% product return and supports Cisco’s goal to be net zero on Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions by 2040.

Click here for access to the full article.

Britain’s Royal Mint to extract gold from electronic waste

CNBC, Published Tuesday, MAR 22 2022;  9:39 AM EDT Anmar Frangoul

  • The Royal Mint says it will use “patented new chemistry” from a Canada-based firm called Excir to recover gold from the circuit boards of cell phones and laptops.
  • The plant will be located in South Wales, where the Mint is based, with construction beginning this month but up & running by 2023.
  •  The process recovers “over 99% of the precious metals contained within electronic waste.
  • The facility is expected to process as much as 90 metric tons of circuit boards sourced from the U.K. each week.

Click here for full access to the story.

Meet the next crop of booming circular economy startups

The Fifth Estate,

The Boomerang Labs Accelerator program is supported by the NSW EPA, EY and Bingo Industries. It aims to help innovative circular economy businesses build the skills, partnerships and connections they need to raise capital and grow.

  1. Cercle Co:   Cercle establishes circular systems that negate the need for single use waste in busy CBD environments by understanding human behaviour and introducing convenience based reuse.
  2. Circular:   Circular develops new, circular-economy packaging technologies to help FMCG brands.   It works on R&D and commercialisation of new packaging technologies that eliminates or significantly reduces plastic use, for which it has a suite of patents and provisional patents for.   It generates revenue through the licensing of its IP to both brands and manufacturers.
  3. Feedback Organic:   Feedback Organic is circular economy business based urban farms, offering a closed loop of food-waste-into-food driven by local communities.
  4. Food2soil:   Processes?commercial food?waste?using?biotechnology, ?producing?a high quality,?biologically live liquid fertiliser?and?soil conditioner (a “kombucha” for plants and soil).
  5. GrainOut:   GrainOut manages food and by-product waste.
  6. Generous and Grateful:   A double-sided marketplace that connects excess essential bulky furniture and white goods with people in need
  7. Green Furniture Hub:   Redirects surplus office furniture and fit-out items from real estate projects away from landfill to other organisations
  8. Ownershift:   Partners with Australia’s most innovative fashion brands to enable their take-back program and branded re-commerce store.
  9. ReCo:   A local refill delivery service to help consumers reduce plastic waste and carbon emissions.   It uses a local delivery and collection system ? it offers refills in reusable jars, delivers to consumers and collects empty jars at the same time.   We’ll refill a range of products from established brands, including eco-friendly cleaning products, organic dried foods and health supplements.

Click here for full access to the entire article

Circular aquaculture

 The Fish Site, 28 March 2022, at 12:16pm

Seven European H2020 Aquaculture projects – have published the Policy Recommendations For a More Circular Aquaculture report.

  • The report uses advanced digital information technology to monitor all aspects of fish and their environment.
  • The ambition of iFishIENCi is to improve the efficiency, sustainability and resilience of traditional and innovative production systems, demonstrating disruptive IoT/AI based innovations, considering the feeding value chain and addressing commercially-important species with fish quality as focus.
  • iFishIENCi aims to identify new value chains for the valorisation of specific waste (dirty water, sludge) from different production systems, leading to zero-waste targets.
  • In addition they demonstrate how strain selection and smart breeding can support optimizing the feeding efficiency, essential to ensure the growth of EU aquaculture production and fulfill the protein needs of the developing countries.

Click here for access to the full article.

Why natural gas can become a low-carbon fuel for the future


Displacing natural gas will prove difficult, so it makes sense to transition it into a cleaner fuel. Not only is using the existing pipelines and equipment more sustainable than building new ones, it has the potential to decarbonize the economy at a lower cost.

  • Natural gas currently provides about 30 per cent of all energy used in Canada.
  • Alternative option for achieving net zero emissions: transitioning natural gas into a cleaner fuel.
  • Nat gas can be blended to reduce its carbon intensity. Renewable natural gas can be blended with conventional gas to reduce emissions. Clean hydrogen can also be blended with natural gas as in Britain.
  • Natural-gas heat pumps have the potential to significantly improve efficiency over today’s furnaces.

Click here for the full article.

How companies capture the value of sustainability: Survey findings

McKinsey Sustainability,  

What makes the difference between a sustainability program that produces business value and one that doesn’t? A new survey identifies practices that distinguish value-creating companies from others.

  • Forty percent of respondents expect company sustainability programs to generate value in the next five years.
  • Companies creating value with sustainability are more likely than other to address the issue for reasons related to their organizational purpose.
  • Value creators are mote likely to have sustainability programs with clear properties, defined targets, and key performance indicators.
  • Sustainability is a more significant element of corporate culture and employee engagement at value creating companies than others.

Access the full article here.

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