We live on a planet where resources are finite. How we choose to use them says a lot about us as people, companies, or governments. According to statistics, humans produce more than 350 million metric tons of plastic waste yearly. It’s becoming apparent how we’re not doing enough as a human race to use these resources responsibly hence the global issue of climate change. That said, we can start by embracing a circular economy in Singapore that promotes environmentally-friendly initiatives and replacing the traditional linear economy, which threatens a more sustainable future.
What is a Linear Economy?
It refers to the conventional way the economy has always functioned — a straight-line process whereby raw materials for creating goods get sold to consumers; and eventually get discarded as waste, polluting the earth and leading to other detrimental environmental issues. The linear economy focuses on making profits instead of the ecological consequences it has on the environment.
What is a Circular Economy?
Unlike the linear economy, a circular economy seeks ways to reduce waste by recovering the end of a product’s life (in a circular motion). It usually involves channelling these resources back into production and repurposing them into something else — reduce, reuse, recycle. The circular economy has sustainability at its core, alongside goals like keeping energy consumption to a minimum, using regenerative sources, and non-polluting raw materials.
To understand the catastrophic impact of plastic pollution, we must first be aware of how each waste has a chain-reaction effect. It alters habitats and natural processes, reducing ecosystems’ abilities to adapt to climate change. When there’s mismanaged plastic waste, it poisons groundwater, which affects drinking water and marine wildlife. Not to mention — plastic pollution also threatens livelihoods directly and indirectly. So, it’s up to nations and governments to implement mindful policies towards curbing that, while on an individual level, the public should work on taking small and consistent conscious steps.
Reducing & Reusing Strategies Around the World
Seeing that a circular economy is what the world should be gearing towards, exploring ways to start that circular process is essential. Reducing and Reusing strategies means reducing the size of the problem — stop using single-use plastics and switch them to reusable and refillable products. Some benefits of Reduce strategies are lesser waste, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and saving money on plastic bags and takeaway packaging, which are just the tip of the iceberg.
The goal is to get creative with new products or adopt a waste-free lifestyle, promoting sustainability as a society and nation. Therefore, implementing smart product designs, packaging innovations, and empowering customers to make responsible choices are some ways to get closer to these goals. Let’s draw some inspiration from innovative companies that contribute to Reducing and Reusing strategies and promoting sustainability:
Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
In 2021, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf introduced a biodegradable, 100% turtle-friendly edible rice straw. Though the texture may be chewy, it's less harmful to the environment than paper and metal straws.
This beauty company offers a collection of face care, body care, and lip care products. With sustainability at the heart of what they do, they use Sugarcane Bio-resin for their packaging. They’re the first company in the world to incorporate this alternative material, which is recyclable, compostable, and reduces carbon footprint.
Plaine is a refillable vegan bath and body care brand. They feature a range of environmentally-free products that are cruelty-free as well as chemical-free, all packaged in recycled aluminium bottles. Unlike plastic containers and bottles that end up in landfills, this packaging is 100% recyclable.
Known for producing sustainable luggage, PARAVEL uses materials like natural cotton fibre and thread from recycled post-consumer plastic bottles to create their luggage collection. The brand has also been certified as climate neutral with certifications from Oeko-Tex Standard 100 and the Global Recycled Standard.
Enhancing Recycling Systems
While recycling is a good thing, when it comes to recycling plastic specifically, it can be a questionable thing because mixed plastic waste may not be compatible (in the resin composition, colour, transparency, weight and size,) in the recycling process. For further context, it involves a collection process, sorting according to waste streams, cleaning, size reduction and separation, and ends with reducing contamination by unsuitable polymers.
Though it may be a complicated process, we’re fortunate to be in a time when technological advancements can play a role in the recovery process.
Smart commercial bins by Smartbio.io
This noteworthy innovation features bins that combine various sensors to track waste fill levels and notify collectors when it’s almost full. In addition, they also generate insights into the types of waste collected, which could be useful for retailers and businesses to manage their waste and strengthen their recycling habits.
Mandatory Composting in San Francisco
With researchers and businesses stepping up, recycling projects on a national level are equally involved. For instance, in 2009, San Francisco passed a law introducing mandatory composting. Since then, more than 72% of its waste from landfills has been diverted to its recycling scheme. Residents now put all their organic waste in green composting bins all over the city.
State-of-the-art integrated waste management facility (IWMF) in Singapore
As a nation, Singapore’s commitment to banish plastic pollution is noteworthy. Its IWMF extracts recyclables and explores new tech that helps repurposing plastic waste into oil and repurposing incinerator ash into construction material. These innovative initiatives play a part in contributing to a more robust and sustainable circular economy that benefits all parties.
On a global scale, most countries have stricter enforcement on recycling. It’s because of such efforts; countries like Germany, Singapore, and Wales can achieve impressive recycling rates — 66.1%, 60.6%, and 60.2%, respectively.
Making Plastic Waste Valuable
They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. But what if we could make treasure from trash? And in our opinion, we should. If you’re wondering why should you embrace trash-made treasure, here’s why:
- It saves energy
- You’re protecting ecosystems and wildlife
- You’re preventing waste that ends up in landfills
- It reduces water and air pollution
- It reduces the emission of hazardous greenhouse gasses
- It feels good knowing you’re not creating waste
Through it all, plastic waste shows its potential for conservation to high-value products such as:
Beach chairs by Low Tides
Low Tides produces one-of-a-kind beach chairs made from ocean plastic. Each chair takes 16 weeks to make and comes with two cup holders. It’s a stylish and socially-responsible piece of furniture that’s committed to preserving the ocean for future generations.
Toys by Green Toys
Green Toys is an innovative toy company that sells toys 100% made from recycled milk jugs. Each design is created according to environmental and safety laws to ensure each one is ethically made. Its packaging is made with recycled cardboard with soy-ink printing for branding. To date, they have recycled over 110 million milk jugs.
Vegan footwear by Zouri
This Portuguese vegan footwear brand focuses on fashioning craft sneakers from plastic from the ocean. Each design uses ecological materials such as organic cotton, Pinatex, and natural rubber, making the production fair and ethical. Zouri partners with local NGOs and schools to spread awareness and has since removed 1 ton of plastic from the Portuguese coastline.
SodaStream and the Circular Economy
If you’ve read this far, you’ll know by now that plastic pollution is a major cause for concern, and it’s usually related to food waste. Packaging, whether it’s from takeaways or online orders, ends up in landfills more than we know. And we know using reusable packaging will minimise this. That’s why at SodaStream, our CO2 gas cylinders are refillable once you run out. Best of all, you can exchange your empty cylinders for a new one for a gas-only price. Simply order a fresh one, and you’ll get door-to-door delivery service on your empty cylinder.
So, it’s not only a fuss-free experience to refill your bubbles, but an eco-friendly one too. Because CO2 gas cylinders are made from premium brass and aluminium, they’re designed to last and perfect for recycling, over and over again, in fact. As the cylinders do not expire, you’re doing the planet a favour by drinking sparkling water with CO2 bubbles.
We have a pledge that’s near and dear to our hearts. By 2025, SodaStream will save up to 76 billion single-use plastic bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans. And it starts with our carbonating bottle. Because of its impressive lifespan, a carbonating bottle is equivalent to 3070 disposable bottles.
With a long history of trust and longevity in promoting sustainability in offering sparkling water, SodaStream champions beating plastic pollution, one carbonating bottle and CO2 cylinder at a time. Our earth needs to work on flattening the curve of plastic pollution — less waste and more sparkle.