Canadian business needs to catch up to 'circular' thinking

Companies need to embrace zero waste models, says advocacy group

The National Zero Waste Council hopes a new toolkit will help Canadian businesses adopt a 100% blue-bin mindset.

The National Zero Waste Council hopes a new toolkit will spur laggard Canadian businesses to embrace zero waste and the "circular economy."

The European Commission recently adopted an ambitious Circular Economy Package, looking to incorporate recycling into the majority of its municipal and packaging waste produced by 2030. A recent study by Accenture, a Canadian business management consulting company, estimates creating a shift to a “closed-loop” economy of zero waste could save $4.5 trillion globally by 2030.

Brock Macdonald, vice chair of NZWC and CEO of Recycling Council of BC, said it’s time for Canada to join the frontrunners.

“Particularly in Europe and Asia they’ve been doing this for a number of years,” he added. “In 20 years all of your competitors are going to be focused on a circular business model so we want (Canadian businesses) to catch up.”

Macdonald noted the uphill battle when it comes to pushing renewable mindsets into business plans in today’s volatile economy.

“This is not a black and white issue,” said Macdonald. “There’s not really a silver bullet, because you could be in the service industry, you could be a manufacturer, you could be an importer. So one of the things you can do is look at the full life cycle of your product.”

Many large companies have already worked the model into their business plan, one of the most notable being Dell, which uses plastic from its own recycled computers to make new ones. He also noted Canada is lagging behind when it comes to the developed world.

“There are a lot of businesses out there that have circularity incorporated into their business models in some shape or form, whether they know it or not,” added Macdonald. “And what we’re really trying to do is raise awareness.”

The toolkit outlines how a circular economy utilizes a three-pronged approach: preventing waste through new business models or improved design; lengthening a product’s life through re-using, repairing or remanufacturing; and improving end-of-life processing and resource recovery.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie, who is also the chair NZWC, said we need to start accepting that living more sustainably is good for business.

“Our linear economy is costing more than taxpayers are willing to pay, so businesses that eliminate waste will be future proofing themselves against changing regulations as well as dwindling primary resources.”

The toolkit notes current business practices could produce a global resource gap of eight billions tons between the supply and demand of natural resources by 2030. NZWC was founded in 2013 by Metro Vancouver with the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.