Taking Recycling to the Next Level
When a material is recycled, the resulting product is usually of equal or lesser value than the original (compare for example, a piece of virgin paper versus recycled paper). Upcycling, on the other hand, enhances the input material and produces something of higher quality and environmental value.
A great local example of upcycling in action is the work of ChopValue, a Vancouver-based company that turns used bamboo chopsticks into high quality home furnishings and décor.
Miniwiz and TerraCycle, founded and helmed by Arthur Huang and Tom Szaky respectively, have earned international acclaim for their work in transforming post-consumer waste generally considered unrecyclable – things like cigarette butts, chewed-up gum, chip bags, old shoes and agricultural leftovers – into high performance materials and products.
Eliminating the Idea of Waste
One way businesses like Miniwiz and TerraCycle approach the Circular Economy is by finding viable uses for things other companies would consider “waste.” This lets them access large amounts of inexpensive materials while maximizing the economic and functional potential of the natural resources already in circulation – an economic and ecological win-win.
Another approach is to adopt novel ways of doing business that eliminate the possibility of waste in the first place, such as the ‘product-as-service’ concept.
Under a model like Tom Szaky’s Loop, manufacturers retain ownership of their packaging, giving them an incentive to improve the durability and recyclability of their products.
Arthur Huang and the Future of Recycling
Structural engineer, architect, and Circular Economy innovator Arthur Huang is the Founder and CEO of Miniwiz, which invents innovative recycling techniques and upcycled materials, architectural solutions and consumer goods.
Take for example, Polli-Ber™, a recyclable composite material made from post-consumer plastic and grain husks that takes 66% less energy to produce and generates 40% fewer lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to making new plastic.
One of Huang’s more recent innovations, TRASHPRESSO, is a portable, solar-powered recycling platform that turns plastic into new products in only ten minutes.
TRASHPRESSO transforms bottles, bags, zip ties and other plastics into molded products such as tiles that can be used as a building or flooring material. It runs on renewable energy and can process up to 50 kilograms of plastics per hour. Work is underway to develop TRASHPRESSO systems that can process textiles, metals, and paper.
“These machines are a prototype of what we think the future of recycling should be,” says Huang, referring to their capacity for decentralized community-based recycling.
Get in the Loop with Tom Szaky
TerraCycle’s founder and CEO, Hungarian-Canadian Tom Szaky, recently introduced a new company, Loop, which represents a new way of shopping that aims to eliminate single-use packaging. In Loop, products are delivered directly to customers in durable containers that are then collected and refilled at least a hundred times before being recycled.
This model allows collaboration with major brands, such as Vancouver-based Nature’s Path Foods, the largest certified organic cereal company in North America, whose Co-CEO Arran Stephens is also a #ZWC19 presenter. Earlier this year, Loblaw announced they will be bringing Loop to Canadian customers starting in early 2020.
“In Loop, instead of the consumer owning the package, the consumer borrows the package and the package is always property of the manufacturer,” said Loop CEO Tom Szaky.
All Aboard the Circular Economy!
The expertise and insights of these two renowned zero waste professionals – not to mention the many other experts and researchers on the #ZWC19 roster – can help you understand the many possibilities for transforming your business in the Circular Economy.
Whether you’re totally new to the concept or an industry veteran, the Zero Waste Conference, in collaboration with the National Zero Waste Council, strikes a balance between theory and action. The conference is your guide to the people, ideas and actions that are having the biggest impact.
2019 Zero Waste Conference:
Mobilizing for Success in the Circular Economy
October 30 – 31, 2019
Vancouver Convention Centre (999 Canada Place)