Closed loop recycling in a circular economy

Closed loop recycling in a circular economy

Written By: Mirjam Ekstrom Photo By: Martin Reisch

What is Closed loop recycling?

To explain Closed loop recycling we first need to look at the two types of economic models. We have the linear economy which typically follows the plan take-make-waste. That means taking resources, turning them into products, selling them and then throwing them out (sometimes before they’re even used.) And when they’re not accepted by the public recycling systems, they end up in our landfills or oceans.

A circular economy, on the other hand, follows the 3R rule: reduce, reuse and recycle. The goal of the circular economy is to keep the circle as tight as possible, by reducing the number of steps needed (and using less resources) before making a product useful again.

In short, closed loop recycling means that waste is collected, recycled and produced into something new. As implied by the term itself, the waste does a full loop without having a negative impact in the environment.

What are the benefits of Closed loop recycling?

To truly achieve sustainability, a closed-loop system is necessary. And while the system is not new, it hasn’t been as effective as open loop recycling, mostly because of lacking consumer knowledge about the recycling process. Here are some reasons why closed loop recycling is the way forward:

  • Helps preserve natural resources
  • Minimizes the risk of harm to the environment, including wildlife
  • Saves landfill space for waste that has no recyclable option
  • Reduces pollution

How can Closed loop recycling be used in the retail industry?  

A lot of companies, two examples being H&M and The North Face, are already implementing what is called a take-back model. This means that the clothes can be returned to the retailer, who then recycle them and turn them into new items. This way the clothes are kept in the loop rather than being wasted. Retailers often encourage customers to return unwanted items by offering a discount on the next purchase.

Another option is for businesses to become more service-oriented, by letting the consumer be more involved in the process. This could mean a repair service, made-to-measure-clothing or styling advice. The theory is that the more involved a customer is, the more they will value their garment and hence – the longer they’ll keep it.

And then there’s the growing movement of sharing economy, where items or services are rented or shared on a peer-to-peer basis, with businesses like Airbnb and Uber. When it comes to the retail industry, people can pay for using clothes rather than owning them, usually through online platforms. This is becoming increasingly popular. A great thing about the sharing economy, other than the obvious environmental benefits, is that it helps build trust and creates a sense of community. By embracing this model, businesses can bring awareness to their positive values all the while forming a stronger bond with the consumers.