The years of the “take-make-dispose” model appear to be winding down as more and more businesses move toward the adoption of a circular mindset that designs out material leakage and disposal while minimizing external impacts like global warming and the use of hazardous substances. The circular economy, as it is called, prioritizes waste elimination through innovative design.
Everything, from materials and products to systems and business models, is scrutinized to decrease resource dependence and develop resource resiliency. Basically, what is used should be reused, again and again, thanks to restorative loops.
Bio-based packaging, recyclable textiles, reusable fabric, and separating chemicals for use in other products are a few examples of circularity principles at work. Practical applications that can be implemented today include maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, recycling and upcycling.
Each circular economy project is unique, however, with its own parameters, requirements and criteria. For companies looking to start their circularity journey, begin by applying the basic definition of the circular economy to products and services. Determine what materials can easily be recycled, what can be saved and reused rather than discarded.
For companies who are further along in their journey, evaluating their efforts will help identify not only areas for improvement but also new revenue streams for future savings. As with those new to the circular economy, focusing on the inflow and outflow of materials is an excellent place to start the assessment.
Many companies have found that consulting a third-party company helps them identify, measure and quantify their inputs and outputs. UL’s Circularity Facts™ Program combines sustainable activities into a single, composite, circularity score. Initially, though, staff evaluate specific aspects of material sustainability, including the use of recycled content, bio-based content, recyclability, waste minimization, and zero waste to landfill.
While each element of circularity can be measured individually the individual ratings are averaged into a single, composite circularity score. All calculated performance metrics and the final circularity score are then assembled into a comprehensive Circularity Facts™ Report that provides a detailed visual representation of an organization’s circularity efforts.
Through circularity assessments and programs such as UL’s Circularity Facts Program, companies can better understand their material loops to discover new opportunities for waste recovery. By building assessments into their sustainability process, businesses can continue to grow while managing resource scarcity, changing global regulations and supply chain volatility.
Learn more about bringing transparency to the circular economy — download UL’s white paper to discover how to integrate the principles of circularity into your company’s strategic priorities.
About the author
Bill Hoffman, Ph.D., manages the UL Environment science team working on the technical basis for the development of standards and guidance for standards including the green chemistry and sustainable chemistry aspects of product environmental performance, validation of claims, and product certification. Hoffman’s work provides a strong technical basis for product environmental performance by using deep scientific analysis of the environmental impact of a product while also assuring companies producing the product are using environmentally progressive manufacturing methods. Hoffman is a member of the William Henry Merrill Society, a UL Corporate Fellow.