A Transition to a Circular Economic Environment: Food, Plastic, and the Fashion Industry

A Transition to a Circular Economic Environment: Food, Plastic, and the Fashion Industry

A. Seetharaman, Manthan Shah, Nitin Patwa
Copyright: © 2022 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/IJCEWM.288500
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The circular economy is progressively a way towards a sustainable society. The shift from linear to circular business models concerns the entrepreneurs to adopt new practices. The purpose of this research is to propose circular business models to make the worlds three of the most wasteful industries food, plastic, and fashion more sustainable. This paper is developed based on an extensive literature review and case studies. The proposed framework analyses the challenges of these three industries and prescribes relevant business models and sustainable practices. The findings in circular economy business models suggest elements of businesses that can be adopted by entrepreneurs in any industry to create a circular activity. This research paper gives the entrepreneurial spirit with business tools to achieve sustainability ambition.
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The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building on the new. (Socrates, philosopher, 469–399 B.C.)

Planet earth's ecosystems are shrinking in volume rapidly. This shrinking is apparent in quantitative terms and qualitative terms in the potential of the earth's ecosystems to provide life-sustaining functions. In terms of natural land area to support humankind's habitation, the surface is diminishing at an accelerating rate. The population is increasing, per capita, consumption is rising, and livestock and cattle volumes are increasing at a rapid pace (Korhonen, Honkasalo, & Sepala, 2017).

There is an urgent need for a new economic model in the face of sharp global volatility, growing signs of resource depletion, and an unsustainable rise of the linear economy. In achieving total resource performance optimization throughout the economy, industries have started exploring new ways to reuse products, restore precious materials, and reduce energy and labor inputs (McKinsey, 2013).

Five mega global trends will affect us by the year 2030 (PWC, 2017). These are urbanization, shifts in global economic power, demographic change, technological breakthrough, climate change, and resource scarcity. A rapid increase in population would result in growing pressure on the limited resources and energy supply. To establish a resource-efficient and low-carbon consuming society paradigm, preventing and designing waste management would become a key focus (Goyal, Esposito, & Kapoor, 2018).

The first industrial revolution created the fundamental characteristics of linear business models of the “take-make-dispose” pattern wherein the raw materials are converted into consumables and thrown into waste at the end of life. This process has been mostly unchanged despite the years of diversification and evolution in the world (Letter, 2018). An estimated 91 billion tonnes of raw natural resources were extracted and entered the world economy in 2017 (Letter, 2018).

The fashion industry is the most polluting world after the oil industry, with less than 1% of the materials recycled (Malik, Akhtar, & Grohmann, 2014) and the rest going straight to fill landfills other natural contours to harm the ecosystem. The pollution from this industry is not limited to the final goods disposed of but also stems from the release of microfibers from the fabrics when washed. These microfibers get released into the soil and bodies of water and end up causing enough waste to equal that of 50 billion plastic bottles (half a million tonne of plastic) (Eileen Fisher). These microfibers are so tiny and ubiquitous that they may even end up on our dinner plates-and further on into the digestive tracts of animals, including humans.

It is a massive challenge for developing nations to handle plastic waste responsibly and protect the environment. “E-Waste” consists of waste from electronic products such as home appliances and generates huge plastic waste. The new rapid technological advancement has shown that consumers buy new devices instead of repairing & reusing the product. This generates hazardous and toxic wastes globally.

Interestingly, companies across various industries are now increasingly noticing this linear system as a threat to their production scale and profitability regarding the increased cost of raw materials and supply chain disruption. On the one hand, the high and unpredictable raw material cost, and on the other hand, the increasing competition and stagnating demand have put a lot of industries in an uncomfortable situation. Hence, there is a scope for a new model of the economy to address these new problems. Enterprises are looking towards a 'new hedge' to detaches the revenues from the material inputs. Different industries like clothing and fashion (Morlet, 2017), plastic and then its related industries (Neufeld, 2016), electronics (Garlapati, 2016), construction (Ghisellini et al., 2018), manufacturing (Visnjic, & Wincent, 2019), and agriculture (Jun & Xiang, 2011) are adopting the circular economy principles.

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