What is a circular economy? I hear you ask...
A circular economy is an economic model designed to reduce the number of resources required and waste produced by an industrial process. It aims to get the maximum use of a resource, whether that be from virgin materials or preferably from sustainable or recycled materials. Then, once the product reaches the end of its use, it is reworked into something new, with no waste products produced.
Overall, humankind has so far operated using a Linear economy, where most of our resources are extracted, used to make products and then disposed of. We cannot continue like this as it is causing significant damage to our environment.
One area that needs dramatic change, apparent to us all, is the packaging industry. We see it in our homes, from single-use products being used in our bathrooms to deliveries to our front door.
It is currently a challenge to purchase items that aren't contained within single-use plastic or aren't delivered wrapped in multiple layers of film and oversized boxes. There are online stores out there that offer sustainable alternatives ( UK examples: Kempii, generation-zero, peacewiththewild), but these aren't the norm, and you can't just pop down to your local shop to purchase these items.
We need the large scale suppliers stacking their products within our general supermarkets to change to alternative packaging products. To encourage them to use these plastic-alternative products, they need to be readily available and easy for producers to use.
Here are three companies working to change this general trend of single-use plastics, and whilst doing so, are aiming to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
- Aeropowder: have created sustainable packaging from feathers.
- Sulapac: have created a sustainable alternative to plastic, made from wood and plants.
- BioPak: creators and suppliers of sustainable packaging, with plastics made from plants, not oil.
Aeropowder is a London(UK)-based company that has developed an alternative packing to polystyrene, utilising a current waste product.Since the online shopping culture has increased, so has the amount of packaging in use. For some suppliers, polystyrene is the go-to product used to pad out boxes, but it is a single-use item that has a devastating impact on our environment.
Aeropowder have created an alternative to polystyrene. They have developed pluumo "The world's first sustainable thermal packaging material made from feathers."
They take surplus feathers from the poultry industry, process them into a unique textile, and wrap them in a biodegradable film. It works as an excellent insulation medium, which has a minimal environmental impact.
Aeropowder's mission "we believe in the circular economy and in unlocking the potential of hidden waste streams. We have turned our attention to the millions of tons of feathers generated every year around the world by the global poultry industry. Our goal is to enable the local production of sustainable materials, anywhere in the world, wherever there are feathers."
Based in Helsinki, Finland, Sulapac founders Suvi Haimi and Laura Tirkkonen-Rajasalo were aware of the ever-growing amounts of single-use plastic that fills our lives and seas. Using their knowledge in biochemistry, they found a solution, a sustainable alternative to plastic.
They created Sulapac® Universal and Premiummaterials from wood and plant-based binders. Aesthetically pleasing, functional and biodegrading without leaving any microplastics behind.
Sulapac® can be processed with existing plastic product machinery, making the switch from conventional plastic to an eco-friendly alternative easy.
Sulapac is successfully pushing forward with its initiative. With their materials in use as packaging within the cosmetic and foodstuff industry, so the change is underway.
All helped with a boost of investment funding, reaching €2.9 million so far.
Formally known as BioPak UK Ltd, the company recently merged with Australia’s leading eco-friendly packaging company, now known as BioPak.
They promote compostable packaging and offer eco-friendly alternatives to fossil fuel-based plastic and tree-based paper, such as the tree-free BioCane range, made from sugarcane pulp (a sugar refining industry by-product), and is home compostable.
The Biopak mission is "to produce packaging that puts the planet first, and our ultimate goal is a waste-free world. We strive to offer the most sustainable and innovative food packaging on the market. We are dedicated to reducing the collective negative impact we have on the environment through sustainable, rapidly-renewable sources and plastics made from plants, not oil."
*The Ellen MacArthur Foundation - Circular Economy - UK, USA, Europe, Asia & South America
* Zero Waste Europe - For further reading on the redesigning of current packaging products.