What is a circular economy?

At Unwrapped Bars we're trying to help create a circular economy. But what does that mean?

In short, a circular economy is where everything has value and nothing is wasted. That doesn't mean that nothing is thrown away; it means that materials, products, 'things' are kept in use for as long as possible and then, when they are no longer useful for their original intended purpose, the resources contained within them get repaired, reused or recycled to create value elsewhere.

The circular economy takes inspiration from the natural world, and that's a good analogy for us to use to understand this concept further. 

Think of a tree. In the spring it grows leaves for photosynthesis, providing food for the tree to grow. By early autumn the growing period is over and the tree needs to prepare to lie dormant throughout the winter, so it sheds its leaves. Those leaves, and the energy and resources which went into them, aren't wasted though. They turn into mulch and soil, providing essential nutrients for not only the tree but also other plants to grow. So even though the leaf is no longer needed or useful as a leaf, its constituent parts - the resource that went into it and which it is made of - continue to give value. The tree operates within a closed loop system. Everything has value and nothing is wasted. 

Our current economy is linear. We take something (often a finite resource, which can't be replaced or regenerated), we make it into something to use (often once), and we waste it. Take, make, waste. This process is the driving force behind the climate and ecological crises we face today. But it doesn't have to be like this.

You're probably familiar with the concept of recycling. Taking a waste product and remaking it into something else. It's a good concept, and when it works it can be a great solution. But the act of recycling is in itself energy-intensive and the majority of waste is still not recycled - even if it can be. In fact, it's estimated that of all plastic ever produced, only 9% has ever been recycled. Yikes. 

In a circular economy avoid is the first principle. That means avoiding creating waste in the first place or avoiding extracting a finite resource. The second is reduce; minimise the creation of waste. Third is reuse; this combines avoid and reduce, by keeping products in use for as long as possible. Next is repairfix things rather than automatically throwing them away. Finally, comes recycle. It's the very last option.

Unwrapped Bars focuses on those first three principles; avoid, reduce, reuse. 

We avoid creating waste by making our product to order and based on demand, rather than creating lots of bars then trying to sell them.

We reduce waste by offering a product which bucks the norm; our bars are wrapped in something which has clear value and is explicitly not designed for single-use. By offering an energy bar which is convenient, tasty and good for the job its meant to do (supporting hungry adventurers) we make it easy for our customers to reduce waste.

Finally, we have created a model where reuse is easy. Whether through their Unwrapped Bars subscription, or by customers choosing to reuse the wrappers themselves at home, our packaging is used, and reused, and reused, again and again. When the wax wears out slightly, they can be popped in the oven and refreshed again (another 're' for you!). When they are finally no longer fit for purpose (after many years) the organic cotton can be easily reused or recycled.

By taking the principles of a circular economy Unwrapped Bars is challenging the idea that single-use is the norm and protecting our natural world. Come join us. 

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This blog is the first in a series about the circular economy and what it means for the way we live. To sign up to our newsletter click here.

If you a runner or outdoor adventurer doing cool stuff for the environment and would like to be featured in our newsletter please contact us at hello@unwrappedbars.com. 

To find out more about a circular economy, visit the Ellen Macarthur Foundation website here

For a lovely comparison of beeswax wraps vs. cling film vs. foil, check out this Which? post 

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