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Circular Economy

Date updated: 6/08/2021

What is the Circular Economy?

Currently we take raw materials to make products, we use them and then throw away as waste. A circular economy is a more sustainable alternative in which products are made to last, thereby eliminating waste. The circular economy benefits business, society and the environment.

I already recycle 

Recycling is great and is still essential. The circular economy goes one step further by redesigning products to be reusable and easier to repair instead of throwing them away if they are damaged or no longer needed.

What can I do?

Manufacturers need to adapt products to help us become more circular. We can champion the circular economy at work and home by consuming less and consuming better. Simple changes like carrying a water bottle or coffee cup to reuse when on the go can help reduce your single use consumption and waste.

Plastic Free City

London gets through 1.2 billion single-use plastic water bottles every year. Following circular economy practices can help you to reduce the amount of single-use plastics that you use. Try carrying a 'reuse kit' around with you when you are out and about - including reusable bags, bottle or coffee cup, cutlery and straw.  

More swaps for more circular living

Bags - try to remember to carry and reuse a bag when shopping instead of having to use a single-use plastic bag. 

Batteries - use rechargeable batteries or consider a portable solar panel charger over disposables to reduce your waste. 

Bikes - CycleExchange sells preowned bikes, you can even sell or exchange your current bike. Numerous bike shops within the City can repair or service your bike and just outside the City  bike repair classes teach you to fix your own bike.

Bulk shops - purchase your shopping in your own containers to eliminate packaging waste. Some Holland and Barrett and Organic Planet stores have unpackaged or refill products. There are lots of independent and bigger bulk stores just outside the City.

Cleaning products - to reduce waste consider zero waste or refillable brands, refilling bottles at bulk shops or making your own.

Clothes - try buying second hand clothes and repairing clothes if possible instead of throwing them away. The Saveyourwardrobe recommends how to maintain, repair and clean clothes to extend the length of your garments, as well as providing donation points when you can give away unwanted clothes. 

Electronic items – donate unwanted small electric items at Tech-Takeback events for repair and redistribution to charities/groups.

Face masks - with an estimated 129 billion masks being used worldwide every single month, making a reusable one can really make a difference. 

Furniture – donate unwanted but good condition furniture to charities such as the London Furniture Collective or share on platforms such as Freecycle and Freegle or the City of London Give and Take Days. 

Gifts – help reduce waste from unwanted gifts with charity donations, gift an experience, re-gift a gift, or give the gift of time or an act of kindness.

Menstrual hygiene – single use menstrual products create large volumes of waste, washable and reusable alternatives are available.

Milk bottles – getting your milk delivered to your house in a glass bottle and then returning the empties instead of buying it in plastic bottles can help reduce your plastic waste.

Mobile Phone - Fairphone adapts a modular design for easy repair.

Nappies - the UK disposes of around 3 billion disposable nappies each year. Reusable nappies are cheaper, better for the environment and for baby.

Personal care – to reduce your waste from cosmetics, toiletries and beauty products consider; zero waste or refillable brands; refill bottles at bulk shops; switch to soap bars or make your own.

Refills - refilling your own containers when shopping can help reduce your plastic consumption. The Refill app maps locations where you can eat, drink and shop without packaging by refilling and reusing your own containers. 

Sponges – dishwashing or cleaning sponge alternatives include reusable washable and plant-based compostable sponges or you could try a brush with plant-based bristles.

Tin foil/cling film – store food leftovers at home in a Tupperware box or bowl covered by a plate. When on the go beeswax wraps are a reusable alternative, plant based wraps are also available.

Toothbrush – bamboo toothbrushes are a sustainable alternative to the trusty plastic toothbrush. Check the label when you dispose of it, bristles will need removing before throwing the handle in the compost bin. Upcycle or reuse your toothbrush to extend its life; old toothbrushes are great for cleaning jewellery, muddy shoes, hard to reach spots in the bathroom and household appliances. Be sure to keep the toothbrush separate and mark it so its not used on teeth.

Wipes – ditch the disposables used as part of your beauty routine, baby care or housework. Swap for bamboo or cloth which can be machine washed and reused. Pick up a handkerchief instead of a tissue, there are even paper towel, cotton wool and toilet roll alternatives.

Wrapping paper – creates waste for gift wrapping use more sustainable alternatives such as paper we may already have; old newspapers, maps, calendars. Mind the wrap explores more creative options.

Learn more about the circular economy at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation