What is a Circular Economy? We take a look at the Concept and how Paper fits in…
The concept of a circular economy was actually developed back in the 60’s. Kenneth Boulding, an american economist and peace activist, wrote “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth”. It outlined the core principles of what we now know as the Circular Economy.
A Circular Economy is ‘an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual demand for new resources’.
In many ways, the natural world is the perfect example of a circular economy. Plants grow from the earth. Animals eat the plants. Animals eventually die releasing nutrients back into the earth for more plants to grow. It’s a proven model.
Now compare that with the current human model, the ‘linear economy’. We buy a product which has been made using new resources.
It breaks or we get bored with it, so we throw it away. We then buy the newer, improved version and the old product goes to landfill. It’s a Take, Make and Dispose approach that is steadily depleting and polluting the planet.
It’s no surprise many companies, organisations and Governments are now looking closely at the circular model and implementing change accordingly. Reducing, Reusing and Recycling is the way to go.
Of course, this change is not simply about ethics, there are clear commercial benefits driving this decision-making. Customers are actively seeking clear evidence of sustainability. If they think another company is better at decreasing their carbon footprint they will swap. All of this means that the industries/companies with the biggest potential for future growth are those demonstrating sustainability in all areas of their business.
So, how does Paper fit into the Circular Economy?
Paper fits into the circular economy model beautifully. It is made from natural, sustainable resources which are biodegradable and can be recycled.
In fact, paper, is one of the world’s most recycled materials. In Australia, the recycling of paper is steadily rising and currently sits at around 60% of all paper and paperboard currently consumed is being recovered.
However, the shift towards a circular economy is not simply about sustainable materials and recycling. Manufacturing processes must adapt and change as well. In this regard, the paper manufacturing industry is well ahead of the curve. In fact, manufacturing (all types) accounts for approximately 21% of the world’s CO2 emissions to which paper contributes just 0.9%.
What about the forests?
A recent survey found that 60% of respondents believed that European forests were shrinking. The truth, however, is forests in Europe have actually grown by 44,000 square kilometres in the past 10 years—the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches every day.
Closer to home, Australia currently has approximately two million hectares of working forest—a number that is set to grow. New Zealand has approximately 1.7 million hectares.
The paper industry is very aware of the need to protect our planet and its precious resources. This is why many paper products available in our corner of the world are certified under sustainability programmes run by organisations such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) . The responsible harvesting of timber followed by replanting and regeneration is circular sustainability in action.
As world-famous environmentalist and writer Jonathan Porritt said,
‘There aren’t many industries around that can aspire to becoming genuinely sustainable. The paper industry, however, is one of them.’
If the world needs an example of the Circular Economy in action—the paper industry provides a great role model. Every aspect, from wood harvest to paper production to distribution to recycling and replanting, has sustainability at its core. The paper industry, by its very nature, has to be sustainable in order to survive. No trees equals no paper!