The Circular Economy: How We Can All Contribute to It, for a Cleaner, Greener World.

The “circular economy” is mentioned a lot more often these days. That’s a good thing because it is a sustainable and innovative approach to tackling urgent environmental challenges, a tangible, practical and viable system to reduce waste. It urges individuals and companies to rethink their consumption and waste habits and design their products with an end-of-life use in mind that incorporates the materials used back into the value chain, thus promoting the responsible management of resources, whilst minimising pollution.

It is crucial that, as a society, we not only embrace the circular economy but also actively contribute to it, in doing so building a more resilient and sustainable future. Here, we explore how everyone can play a role in contributing to the circular economy, with the help of sustainable companies like Mpact Recycling, and the benefits this has for the environment and the South African economy.

Circular economy in action Thari edu-care clean-up drive

Understanding the Circular Economy

First, let’s explain the opposite of a circular economy - a linear economy – which is fast becoming outdated because it is a wasteful model. In the 21st century, we are grappling with resource scarcity and global warming, in part, due to our linear economic approach. A linear economy works on a model of “take, make, dispose” – extract raw materials, turn them into products used by consumers, and at the end of their “life” they’re thrown away as trash. A linear economy has no regard for ecological consequences.

A circular economy, on the other hand, is an economic model that aims to:

  • Reduce waste.
  • Conserve resources.
  • Create a closed-loop system for materials.

The circular economy encourages a holistic view of materials, from their initial creation to their eventual recycling and transformation into new products. Adopting a circular economy approach minimises resource extraction, reduces carbon emissions, and lowers overall environmental impact. With the increased longevity of products, there is reduced waste generated, which results in cost-savings over time.

How Individuals Can “Close the Loop” and Contribute to a Circular Economy

"Closing the loop" refers to completing the circular flow of materials, ensuring that products and their components are continuously reused, remanufactured or recycled. In other words, reducing your carbon footprint and decreasing the amount of trash going into our full-to-capacity landfills. Here's how you can close the loop and become a superhero:

  • Reduce Practice conscious consumption by buying only what is necessary and avoiding unnecessary waste.
  • Reuse Incorporate re-use models in your daily life. Use reusable cloth bags, bottles and mugs instead of disposable ones. Repair and refurbish items whenever possible to extend their lifespan.
  • Recycle separate recyclable materials from general waste to ensure they can be processed and repurposed. Sign up and join local recycling programmes and familiarise yourself with recycling guidelines – what can and can’t be collected. Mpact Recycling has very handy downloadable resources to help.

Mpact’s Approach to the Circular Economy

As the largest paper and plastics packaging and recycling group in Southern Africa, Mpact plays a key role in closing the loop on the circular economy. Mpact, as a company, is committed to sustainability and, with responsible environmental management being a core value, Mpact bases all its operations and products on the principles of the circular economy:

  1. By incorporating recycled content in its manufacturing processes, Mpact ensures that valuable resources are conserved and not wasted.
  2. Additionally, the company focuses on responsible manufacturing practices and utilises renewable energy sources, such as solar energy, to reduce its carbon footprint. Mpact began its solar installations in 2017 and continues to invest in renewable energy for its factories. By 2023, the group had achieved 9.4 MW of solar energy. The aim is to reach 16 MW by the end of 2023 and 27 MW by the end of 2024.
Felixton Paper Mill

Recycling Is a Key Cog in the Circular Economy

Recycling offers significant social and environmental benefits, such as diverting recyclable packaging from landfill sites, creating income opportunities for collectors, reducing the demand for virgin materials and lowering greenhouse gas. Mpact’s circular business model can be summed up as follows: Mpact Recycling collects the paper and cardboard that is then recycled and made into new paper and containerboard (through Mpact’s Paper Mills), which is then manufactured into new cardboard boxes (through Mpact’s Paper Converters).

How Mpact Recycling Supports and Encourages Individuals to Be Part of the Circular Economy

Through our Residential Estates Programme and Ronnie Recycler Schools Programme (which has been going since 1995), Mpact Recycling enables convenient, rewarding and easy participation in the circular economy. We do this by educating on what can and can’t be recycled and by providing an efficient collection service.

We also provide educational resources on our website and encourage responsible waste management practices within communities through our branches, while also actively supporting and consulting with suppliers and collectors to ensure as much waste gets recycled as possible, in as efficient and responsible manner as possible.

Through these ongoing initiatives, Mpact Recycling is empowering people across South Africa to be more active citizens, resulting in broader positive effects for our environment and economy:

  • Conservation of valuable resources for future generations.
  • Reducing litter and landfill usage.
  • Supporting recycling industries contributes to creating income opportunities and economic growth.
  • Climate change mitigation as there’s a reduced demand for raw materials thereby reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition to Mpact Recycling’s on-the-ground, real-world programmes, there are also plenty of digital aides to help people live more lightly on this earth and contribute to the circular economy. From carbon footprint calculators to other mobile apps that gamify your efforts, give you helpful data, help you measure your contributions and give you useful tips on how to reduce water and electricity consumption.

Residential Estates Recycling Programme

Misconceptions About the Circular Economy

The circular economy’s processes are not fixed in place. In other words, this system stretches much further than waste management and recycling. There isn't a one-size-fits-all solution; systems and processes will vary from country to country, depending on the existing infrastructure and legislation. Solutions for developed countries cannot necessarily be duplicated in developing countries, so the loops that are used to close in South Africa may look different to those of Europe or the UK.

It’s important for every person to actively participate in recycling and waste management and put pressure on the government and leaders to implement better processes and stricter laws that will enable a truly circular economy.

An All-Round More Hopeful Future

It’s no longer business as usual, and many people understand that we have to change our consumption habits. It’s encouraging then to see that the circular economy is becoming entrenched in the way more businesses operate, and for the average person, recycling is no longer considered just for the environmentalists. Indeed, it’s widely understood to be a “good” thing. Whether people realise it or not, by recycling, they are driving the circular economy.

If we can stay committed to circular economy principles and make it a collective effort between government, business, and every individual, we can all create a hopeful picture for the future.

Contact Mpact Recycling to get involved today.

COOKIES: This site uses cookies to enhance your website experience. See our cookie policy for further details.