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How The Circular Economy Will Save the World
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The Single-Serving Economy

Single-serving cup, single-serving clothes, single-serving lifestyles. Your smartphone. Those Yezzey’s. Shampoo-conditioner combos. Sample-packaged mouthwash. Tiny bars of soap. What do all these products have in common? They are the legacy of an old vanguard of business models. They’re the product of single-serving economics, my friends.

Illustration by MAERSK

Buy more and more. Consume more and more. Spend more and more. That’s how this huge capitalist machine keeps turning, right? For the good part of history within capitalist societies, that is how most successful business models played out. Companies are rooted in this linear approach to growth – make, use, and dispose.

For a classic example of this look no further than the immensely lucrative oil industry. Oil companies all go out and search for oil wherever it may be hiding. Once they find and sell their barrels of oil they don’t care what the oil goes on to do or if it’s having any adverse effects. The oil is gone forever, never to be recovered again. While the oil industry is probably one of the most notorious examples of single-serving economics. It’s certainly not the only one.

Think about all the clothes we buy just to throw out. Every year 85% of clothing (or textiles) produced ends up in landfills. The EPA estimates that the textile recycling industry recycles approximately 3.8 billion pounds of post-consumer textile waste each year. This accounts for only 15% of its total production. That’s a lot of Hot Topic t-shirts in our dumps.

Circular Business Models Provide New Outlook

But we’ve reached an inflection point in our evolution as a society. Evidence shows many firms are coming to the realization we can’t just keep consuming and disposing. It’s not good for our environment and it’s not good for businesses in the long-term. Founders, economist, and designers are all starting to explore the inherit advantages with circular business models. Business models where the product life cycle has no end.

Circular Economy

Illustration by MAERSK

Products, companies, and entire economic systems are being redesigned not just with a solitary end user in mind. Instead considering more closely a web of interconnected elements. The companies and organizations on the cutting edge of this trend are designing products and services that go beyond the final user. Pioneering a path toward circular business models and the circular economy at large.

The circular economy will look beyond the current make-use-dispose business models we have grown accustom too. A circular business model aims to redefine growth by exploring new consumption methods.

It entails gradually shifting from consumption of finite resources – to a system that makes use of its waste and by-products for positive society-wide benefits. These new models regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Other models recover products and waste materials to reuse, repair, or re-manufacture products and services.

This emerging business mind-set could be worth trillions of dollars. But even still, making the shift won’t be over night. Rest assured this is the direction we must go in to save our lifestyles. These solutions are giving businesses a competitive advantage and are regenerative for our world.

Adidas X Parsley

Circular Economy Shoes

Photo by Adidas

This epic collaboration by sportswear giant Adidas and environmental organization Parley For The Oceans resulted in a stylish sneaker that comes with an environmental story. To celebrate World Oceans Day – Adidas and Parley teamed up to make a shoe made from Ocean Plastic.

Photo by Adidas

These plastics were collected by Parley from coastal areas in the Maldives. Using Adidas’s innovative production methods they produced a limited release of this running shoe. I sure hope they drop some more. I would love to get my hands on a pair.

Photo by Adidas

Photo by Adidas



Photo by Avanu

Indonesia based company Avani, provides eco-friendly bags, disposable cutlery, and packaging made from cassava. The team at Avani aims to replace disposable and single-serve plastic products. Avani’s products naturally decompose into the earth after use and become compost for the soil.

Photo by Avani

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