What is the Circular Economy?
Current systems are typically linear. Raw materials are extracted to make products that, once used, are discarded as waste.
The circular economy aims to reduce waste to a minimum by repairing, refurbishing and recycling materials. These sustainable practices can help to tackle global issues such as the climate, biodiversity and pollution crises.
What is the Built Environment’s Role in Tackling Waste?
Global waste amounts to over 2 billion tons per year, and the built environment causes a third of this (WGBC, 2023). In the UK, the construction industry generates 62% of the country’s waste, more than any other sector (UKGBC, 2023).
Materials used in the construction of buildings make up around 9% of total energy-related emissions (UNEP, 2022). Reducing waste in the built environment can help lower the demand for material production and, therefore, reduce emissions.
In fact, employing circular measures could reduce the use of raw materials in construction by 35% by 2035, which would reduce the sector’s emissions by almost 40% (Green Alliance, 2023).
Although around 90% of construction waste is recycled or recovered, this statistic can be misleading (CPA, 2022). The majority of recovered materials are downcycled. This process generates carbon emissions and reduces the circularity of materials by stripping away their value.
The Importance of Collaboration
Traditional linear business models feature stakeholders who can function independently of each other as long as they fulfil their own responsibilities.
However, a circular business model relies on collaboration from stakeholders at each point of the value chain. Collaboration is required to ensure the best solutions that limit waste generation are implemented. In a circular economy, it is in everyone’s interest to reduce waste, and everyone needs to work together to achieve this.
Collaboration within the Construction Sector
Collaboration amongst all construction sector stakeholders up and down the value chain is vital to optimise waste prevention.
Design-stage professionals, such as architects and developers, need to work with construction-stage and use-stage professionals. This will ensure that planned circularity methods are implemented effectively and meet the needs of the client.
Naturally, those at the beginning and end of the value chain need to work together closely to ensure the circular process continues. This means design-stage professionals, such as architects, must not only design for longevity but also for deconstruction and reuse.
To minimise waste and create circular systems, all stakeholders must work together to ensure that the products used in a project maintain the highest value throughout their lifecycle, instead of being diminished via downcycling.
Future-use must be at the forefront of decision-making at every point in the creation of a building. Collaboration enables waste-reduction principles and ideas to be shared along the different stages of a building project as it advances to completion.
Cross Industry Collaboration
It is important to remember that emissions reductions must occur across all sectors of the economy to reach net zero. Focusing solely on reducing emissions within sectors limits the potential that cross-sector collaboration can have for accelerating decarbonisation.
As the built environment is such a vast and varied sector, there are countless ways that the waste of another sector can be repurposed or reused to create circular solutions and reduce emissions. These solutions can help lower emissions in the built environment but will also help to address issues in other sectors.
Taking a cross-sector approach can be beneficial as it presents solutions outside of convention and enables innovative action that may not be possible otherwise.
Our Cross Industry Collaboration Approach
At Low Carbon Materials, we find alternative uses for waste streams by working across sectors. Our flagship product OSTO® is made from a combination of waste materials, including those from outside the construction sector.
By working with the waste incineration sector and diverting waste away from furnaces to use in our products, we prevent harmful greenhouse gases from being released into the atmosphere and help improve air quality.
Read more about our innovative product here.