Circular Economy: How we design, produce, use and discard products impacts our economy
Opinion / 17 December 2019, 11:30am / Miyelani Mkhabela
JOHANNESBURG – South Africa recently hosted a symposium on Circular Economy November 2019, South Africa and European union partnership on Circular Economy symposium held at the National Research Foundation dissected several themes such as re-use of materials and products, reduction of the use of (finite) resources and the recycling of materials are key in contributing to a circular economy.
Instead of maximising growth and profit and making products obsolete by design, the goals to capture all the value we create for as long as possible. South Africa has an opportunity to adopt the newborn sector, circular economy to develop small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that will be resilient in the markets and create jobs for the 60 percent youth unemployment. The circular economy will provide decent jobs to people, we will need to come with great foresight for policymaking and innovative enterprises that can deliver sound quality services to other sectors
The way we design, produce, use, distribute and discard products has a strong impact on our economy, society and environment. There is at least a perception amongst many stakeholders and consumers that products in use today are not optimized to be repaired, upgraded or remanufactured, resulting in premature obsolescence. Over the whole life cycle of the product, the use of resources is often sub-optimal.
At the end of their service life, most products are discarded and their materials not sufficiently recycled, causing valuable resources to be wasted, including critical raw materials. This problem is driven in particular by the fact that prices of products do not always reflect their environmental and societal costs, which reduces the incentives to produce and consume sustainably.
The tyre recycling project or REDISA has shaped the tyres recycling value chain and we can use that case study to strategise and implement several prototypes and small wins results in formulating a complete bigger economy to benefit society and create more jobs. Cooperation from producers of textiles, food, chemicals, construction sector, mining sector, metals production will be required highly to build a sustainable sector for all.
South Africa is working on the prioritization of the transition to a carbon-neutral, circular economy. Taking a circular approach towards products holds large potential in terms of sustainability in the broadest sense, benefiting people, planet and prosperity. In a circular economy, products maintain their potential to create value for as long as possible. Products have a long lifetime, due to a durable design. In case a product breaks, it is repaired. When a consumer no longer needs a product, it is passed on and reused by another consumer, or products are shared from the outset.
South African plastics, mining, food, textiles and chemicals needs to adopt projects in a circular economy and also adapt to the future of manufacturing technologies and tools to reduce waste and have networks for re-utilization of products, for example, returning clothes to mega-retailers for discounts for the next desired items and renting of Jean’s for 18 month instead of buying them and other traditional models of giving relatives and social organizations clothes for reuse.
Products that are discarded after their first technical or economical lifecycle are updated or refurbished and begin another life cycle, or if this is not possible their materials are recycled with a minimum of remaining resources ending up in energy recovery. During production and use, products consume the minimum amount of resources such as energy or water that is needed to fulfil their functions. Consumable products such as food, drinks, cosmetics and detergents are also produced with the minimum impact on resources and consumed to leave as little waste as possible.
Investing in businesses that are taking firm action to promote the circular economy can be a choice that pays off in the long term. Circularity has also opened up new business opportunities and given rise to new business models and developed new markets, domestically, we need to take the United Nations Principles For Responsible Investment seriously for the impact development financing by our institutional investors. Impact investment will add value to society and investors will also have an attractive Interest Rate of Return for all their commitments or allocations.
South African metros and municipalities are facing huge problems in the recycling of municipal during there is no waste space available for mainly in cities and urban edge cities to provide for waste during the development of new real estate development and this is the new complexity for developers. We need new solutions to manage waste in municipalities and this will build SMEs for the future.
The so-called ‘linear’ economic model, which follows a 'take-make-dispose’ pattern, is not viable in the long term as a counter to an ever-increasing global population, a raft of non-renewable energies (metals, minerals, fossil fuels, etc.) unable to keep up with demand, and a limited ability to regenerate renewable energies (land, forest, water, and so on). So the entire economic sector must move towards a new model of production and consumption related to what we call the circular economy; the circular economy consists in extending the life of products, reducing waste, reusing waste as a new resource and developing the principles of leasing and sharing.
Stakeholder engagement is vital for the transition. The systemic approach of the action plan has given public authorities, economic actors and civil society a framework to replicate to foster partnerships across sectors and along value chains. Stakeholder mindfulness and reflected leadership is a solution to future conflicts, we need to plan our projects with the humility of inclusiveness to societal principles of Ubuntu and Bathu Pele.
Miyelani Mkhabela is an economist, a director of Antswisa Transaction Advisory Services and Antswisa Private Equity. [email protected]