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Circular economy offers “wealth of opportunity for U.S.”

Trash to Treasure: Changing Waste Streams to Profit Streams, a new report launched by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, focuses on waste in American companies and industries, and argues that the circular economy represents an economic opportunity, as well as being a model that reduces waste. 

The largest 5589 publicly trading businesses in the U.S. sent 342 million metric tons of waste to landfills and incinerators in 2014, according to the report, an economic cost to those companies in terms of removal, and a reality that also has significant environmental and social impacts.

A transformation of thinking, and the implementation of circular economy principles, could turn that waste into an economic benefit for companies, where materials, resources and time wasted because of inefficiencies are significant drains on profitability. Trash to Treasure suggests that the most obvious manifestation of a missed opportunity is in the amount of materials that businesses send to landfill and incinerators, all of which are resources that enter a company’s production chain with value and leave it with none.

“The circular economy offers a wealth of opportunity for the American business community, as companies confront the realities of today’s economic environment, it’s easy to overlook the value and the potential for growth that lies in ordinary, everyday waste. Our ‘Trash to Treasure’ research illustrates the business case for the circular economy, encouraging all enterprises to follow the lead of several businesses already putting this regenerative, restorative way of thinking to work.”

 Jennifer Gerholdt, director of environmental initiatives for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center, said in a statement.

In a European context, a combination of circular models and technological developments could reduce primary material consumption measured by car and construction materials, real estate land, synthetic fertiliser, pesticides, agricultural water use, fuels and non-renewable electricity could drop 32 per cent by 2030 and 53 per cent by 2050 compared with today. Those figures, taken from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Growth Within report, are not fully applicable to the U.S. market, but combined with the case examples in Trash to Treasure, indicate that circular economy opportunities on the other side of the Atlantic are well worth exploring.

Lead image licensed under CC – credit Flickr user: Dave Winer

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