Could the future of shopping be “bring your own packaging”?
Waitrose is trialing a scheme that lets customers fill their own containers with cereals, coffees and other produce. Products will be presented in special containers, with the customer placing their own container underneath and dispensing what they need. The aim is to reduce food and packaging waste by giving people a way of buying only what they need.
It’s a great idea, and one we hope takes off. However, we can see a few issues smaller businesses may need to think about before they can follow suit. Keeping the product containers clean and stocked, ensuring customers have confidence what they’re dispensing is the brand they want and not a cheap knock-off and pricing methods are topmost in our minds.
Circular Economy Week in London
A week of events focused on the circular economy is taking place between 10th and 14th June. There’s a wide collection of workshops and round tables covering everything from plastics to innovation to cooking. You can register for events online.
Turning petrol cars electric
We have millions of cars on our roads. Replacing them all with BEVs could prove costly, time consuming and even a waste of resources. Converting them to run on electric might be a better way of reusing them.
At the moment, the technology is centred on high-end and vintage machines. Could it start to creep down the price range as the technology evolves?
Circular process turns waste food into biopesticide to protect the next generation
In spite of efforts to reduce food waste, ATM Fruit generates around 2,000 tonnes each year. Now it’s teamed up with AgriGrub, a fellow Fenland business that provides soldier flies as live feed to reptile owners. The fly’s larvae eat the waste, extracting a chemical called chitosan, a biopesticide. The chemical can then be fed back onto the land to protect crops.
At the moment the project is small scale, with the biobesticide being used on high value crop. Longer term, assuming the trial is successful, both ATM and AgriGrub hope to expand the scale of their operations.
It’s a great example of a simple circular process.
Headphones show the way for microbe based materials
Sometimes you have to prove something is possible. Finnish design house Aivan looked for a way to create sustainable headphones and came up with Korvaa. They were made entirely from microbe based materials and 3D printing. They’re not functional, but as a “proof of concept” they’ve ticked some boxes.
The lesson here is don’t be afraid to play. While the entire design might never see the inside of a store, elements from them probably will.
Is The Netherlands a jump-off spot for circular expansion in the EU?
If you’re planning on launching a circular economy initiative, the Netherlands might be a place to keep your eye on. About 4 percent of the population is employed in circular activities, and there is a small but strong community built around them. Recycling initiatives lead the way.
The NEAA has raised concerns that other initiatives beyond recycling are struggling to find a way through. They’ve recommended subsidies and other schemes to target non-recycling circular economy initiatives. It could be a signal the state is going to offer support to businesses.
Worth keeping an eye on if your expansion plans include the EU.
Could Labour change the way public contracts are awarded?
A new policy announcement from the UK’s Labour Party could have far reaching consequences for £250 billion of public contracts. They’re promising to shift the balance away from pure commercial terms to focus more on the environmental impact of bidding companies. It would upend the decades old covenant than government would source on the basis of best economic value for the tax payer, which has led to lowest-bid models dominating selection and seen “change requests” become a key source of revenue for successful firms.
Whether this would favour small specialist suppliers with strong eco-credentials remains to be seen. Worryingly, the party is also hinting at stronger central control and “insourcing”, neither of which would favour small business.
Lacking space for your organic farm? Try spreading it around
New York has an organic farm. Strapped for space in one of the US’s busiest metropolises, Smallhold rethought the problem and distributed its farmland across the city. Restaurants, grocery stores and markets have become home to micro-farms growing mushrooms.
It’s a model we’ve seen elsewhere, notably in Japan where a vineyard in Osaka is made up of dozens of small plots spread around the city.
Could it be applied elsewhere? We think so – and not just in the urban landscape.
Fashion retailers team up to trial new closed-loop business models
Ted Baker, Farfetch and FW have teamed up to trial a new closed-loop business model. The fashion brands already have low impact options in their line-up, although the new approach should reduce it even further. Included in the options being explored is “clothes as a service” where clothes are rented and returned rather than bought outright. This allows them to be reused, or safely recycled once they’ve reached the end of their life.
How HarperWilde is recycling bras – and why you should too
What do you do with old bras? Charity shops rarely accept them and from what we can work out, most are headed to landfill. What if there was a different way?
Specialist bra brand HarperWilde has a solution. Your order arrives with a prepaid return envelope in the box. Place the old bra in the box, put the return label on and send it back. They’ll take care of the rest.
We think this is a great idea and one that could easily be copied. Key to the project is teaming up with For Days, who specialise in recycling t-shirts. Finding a partner to accept hard-to-recycle waste and encouraging customers to return products to you could be a good way of closing a loop in the circular economy.