Reduce, reuse and recycle

The Circle Economy’s 2021 Circularity Gap Report found that only 8.6% of the world is circular (that means using and reusing objects for as long as possible, rather than throwing them away). If we can double that figure, the world will release no greenhouse emissions.

How it helps you

Adopting reuse and recycling principles yourself in your own business for products which you use will help you save money.

Customers want help and more information – in a recent survey seven in ten (70%) of those surveyed said that they urgently need more information about what they can and cannot recycle. By providing this information to them you will create more loyal customers and it might create additional revenue streams for you.

In the UK 10,000 items of clothing are thrown into landfill every 5 minutes. If we all extended the active use of our clothing by 9 months of active use, we would reduce the carbon, water and waste footprints by around 20-30%.

ACTION: Offer rental and resale options to drive sales

For products that are used infrequently by customers, offer a rental or subscription service so that the same product can be used by more customers, so increasing the profit you make from the product over time.

Look for gaps in your local area for services that people want and need (e.g. bike repair, household appliances repair, collections of fabrics for recycling, or charity donations). Think about charities and other partners who you could work with to use your shop as a collection point for materials that can be reused or resold.

Sell second-hand or refurbished items (e.g. antique furniture, vintage clothing). This is becoming increasingly popular with customers who want to buy something that’s been pre-loved, and is often a cheaper alternative to buying brand new. If you haven’t got the space to provide extra services then give customers information on how they can pass it on to other people.

What others are doing

Patagonia’s Worn Wear initiative accepts used merchandise from customers, which is resold at a lower price point. In its first 6 months online, Patagonia sold $1 million worth of used clothes.

Fat Llama is a peer-to-peer rental marketplace, enabling people to monetise their unused possessions, and giving renters cheap solutions. In 2020, they launched a partnership with John Lewis to offer home furniture rental.

Amazon Second Chance provides a forum for customers to recycle or use the Trade In service (to receive vouchers in return for unwanted items) for products that will then be refurbished and resold through Amazon Renewed.

Since 2019, Farfetch has been piloting two take back initiatives. Farfetch Second Life exchanges old designer handbags for store credit, while Farfetch Donate, in partnership with Thrift+, allows users to raise money for charity and store credit for themselves simultaneously through donation. As a result, purchases of pre-owned products replaced a consumer’s purchase of a new item in around 60% of cases.

ACTION: Lengthen product lifespan with repairs and returns

The UK’s Right to Repair law will come into effect in 2021. Manufacturers will be legally obliged to make spare parts for products available to consumers for the first time, aiming to extend the lifespan of products by up to 10 years.

Offer repair services to increase the lifespan of your products or give customers advice and instructions on how to repair items themselves.

Share product care tips on how often an appliance, for example, should be serviced. Where relevant and possible, send customers reminders that their product is due for a service.

Offer a returns scheme for unwanted items (in exchange for vouchers or discounts) that you can then refurbish, repurpose and resell. Alternatively, promote a local charity that you recommend your customers give their products to when they no longer have a use for them.

Run customer swap shops or be a collection point for items that are no longer wanted.

In the current climate, consider any precautionary measures that may have to be taken to ensure your initiative is Covid-safe.

What others are doing

Nudie Jeans Repair Shops are hubs for jeans to be repaired, resold as second-hand, or even donated to the Nudie Jeans recycling programme. In 2019, they repaired 63,000+ pairs of jeans and collected 11,500 pairs, saving 50,000 kilos of textile waste.

IKEA’s ‘Buy Back’ scheme will launch in 2021. It will offer customers cashback vouchers for old items, which it will then re-sell to customers second-hand.

The Restart Project, a social enterprise, runs Restart Parties to teach people how to fix their broken devices, from toasters to tablets. In 2019, they had over 6,000 participants.

ACTION: Sort waste effectively to be recycled or composted away

As set out in the Environment Bill 2020, businesses will soon need to take responsibility for the waste they create and could incur charges for not doing so.

Log the various types of waste that your business produces and turn it into a recycling plan for your employees to follow. Make it clear what the correct recycling procedures are and have enough bins and information in place to support this.

Display posters above bins from your local authority, which explain your area’s recycling procedure. This will teach your employees best practices and help your business comply with the right procedures.

Speak to your local authority or council to understand what recycling, compost or food waste collection services are currently available and what might be coming in the future. In the meantime, explore partnerships with local farmers, organisations or third-party collection services that can make use of your food waste or compost.

A word of caution though – don’t put non-biodegradable tea bags or other toxic waste in your food waste or compost bins. Only fill it with the good stuff!

The best way to prevent food waste is to nip it in the bud — it Is estimated that one-third of all the food that’s produced (that is 1.3 billion tonnes) goes to waste. Encourage your customers to only buy what they need and if you’re a food retailer, provide your customers with hints and tips for how to keep their food fresher for longer.

Seek out ways to recover a material’s value (e.g. if it can’t be recycled, can it be used to create heat, electricity or fuel as a way of avoiding it going to landfill).

What others are doing

Too Good To Go aims to combat food waste by allowing cafes, restaurants and food retailers to sell surplus food at discounted prices to customers through their app. This service enables retailers to recover some costs and attract new customers, while customers get discounted prices for food that would have otherwise gone to waste.

Where to find out more

Defra are reviewing local authority waste management services and will likely improve services within the next few years – consider what your business can do to help before then.

Visit https://www.recyclenow.com for lots of handy tips and information which you can adopt yourself and pass on to your customers.

If you prepare food for your customers to eat in or take away then join Guardians of Grub https://guardiansofgrub.com which has lots of useful information to help you reduce your food waste.

To find out useful tips on the storage of food, tantalising recipes and advice on portioning and meal planning to pass onto to your customers, visit Love Food Hate Waste https://www.lovefoodhatewaste.com

Every year in the UK we throw away £12.5 billion worth of good food, costing the average family almost £60 a month.

Try Another Principle

  1. Save energy and switch to renewables
  2. Minimise packaging
  3. Reduce, reuse and recycle
  4. Offer greener choices
  5. Work together
  6. Share what you learn

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