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Product circularity minimizes waste and carbon emissions from cradle to grave

June 6, 2018

In the previous post, we used the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) to calculate reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from electronics diverted from the landfill versus the same quantity sent to landfill. To take things a step further, how do zero waste and reduced carbon emissions/GHGs relate to product circularity?

We examined how reducing waste measurably reduces carbon emissions and a business’ environmental footprint. Circular products have an even more profound impact on reducing waste and carbon emissions by helping products and the materials in those products retain value throughout their entire life-cycle.

For example, by making a product that is recyclable, you allow buyers and consumers to be responsible for fewer GHG emissions when disposing of your product at end of its life. The materials in the product can be used again and do not have to be replaced with new stocks of materials, which requires mining of resources.

Recyclability comes in many different forms. In essence, it means ensuring that materials are used at their highest value for the longest period of time possible. Recyclability may be accomplished in a variety of ways:

  • The use of biologic materials that are lightly modified and can be easily biodegradable or digestible in an anaerobic digester.
  • Product design that allows for easy break-down into components, some of which can be reused, others which can be recycled, etc.
  • Developing repair services and channels that help extend a product’s life and reduce disposal and replacement of items.

Product circularity benefits the environment by reducing raw material extraction used for replacement, diverting material from the landfill for reuse, and maximizing the possibility that stakeholders along the value chain will take action to recycle or responsibly dispose of goods.

UL developed the Circularity Facts program to effectively evaluate the circularity of products and is designed to help companies manufacture products that maximize material value throughout its lifetime and minimize waste. We challenge companies to think about their products; not just as they are generated and sold, but beyond that first step, to use and disposal. This kind of thinking and planning can have a tremendous impact on the environment.

To learn more, visit UL’s Circularity Facts Program.