Startups and the Circular Economy

For small businesses and startups everywhere, sustainability is a hot topic. In fact, as our impact on the planet becomes ever more evident, there’s increasing calls for businesses of all sizes to step up their efforts to reduce waste and push for a more sustainable economic model. Our existing practices of “take, make, and dispose” have been called out, and today its less acceptable than ever before to simply profit with little regard for the resources used and the waste it creates.

Recycling in circular economy

But what does this mean for small businesses in reality? And how can we redesign our existing economy to be more sustainable?

Well, startups and other small businesses around the world are beginning to make the change, adopting circular economy principles in order to do just that. Now, businesses are spotting opportunities in our waste, reusing and recycling discarded materials to ensure resources are kept in the loop for as long as possible. They’re also identifying novel ways to take responsibility for their own products, a key piece of the puzzle when it comes to building a truly circular model.

So, as the climate crisis continues to unfold, here are a few startups that are fighting back the waves of conventional waste, redefining our economy for a more sustainable 21st century. Read on to discover the innovative and exciting developments that may well act as a blueprint for all tomorrow’s startups.

Method

Method production line

photo credit: Method

Method is a US-based startup that champions the circular economy through its innovative approach to cleaning products. Using infinitely recyclable materials across its entire range and featuring cradle-to-cradle certification, Method is disrupting a consumer industry that has been notorious for its plastic waste.

All of the products Method sells can be refilled, and the company is also pushing a range of bottles and containers manufactured from plastic debris gathered from the ocean.

Orange Fiber

Ferragamo line made using Orange Fiber fabric

photo credit: Orange Fiber

Italian-based company Orange Fiber takes waste citrus peel from the food industry and turns it into a silky yet durable luxury fabric. This innovative material is now being used by top fashion brands such as H&M and Salvatore Ferragamo, creating innovative clothing and accessories from the 700,000 tons of citrus waste generated in Italy alone.

Founded in 2014, the company has been gradually extending its range, and the final product is completely compostable once garments have reached the end of their lifecycle.

Hyla Mobile

Hyla Mobile

photo credit: Hyla Mobile

US-based Hyla Mobile works with leading electronics manufactures to help reduce the impact of e-waste. Through reuse, repurposing, and recycling it is estimated that the company has diverted more than 6,500 tons of e-waste away from landfill.

Offering a range of services, including device trade-in, processing, and liquidation, the company’s goal is to keep electronic devices and components in circulation for as long as possible through resale and recycling, while offering increased transparency for electronic products of all kinds. This helps manufactures and consumers to track the entire lifecycle of any given product or component.

MUD Jeans

MUD Jeans

photo credit: MUD Jeans

MUD jeans was founded in 2013 with the idea of bringing increased circularity to the denim industry. Starting with ethically sourced, organic cottons and recycled products, the company then took the concept a step further by introducing its Jeans Lease Program. The lease system allows consumers to lease a pair of jeans for a monthly fee. When the jeans become old, or the wearer simply feels like a change after 12 months, you can return the jeans and switch for a new pair. The old pair are then recycled or upcycled into a new product that’s ready to be sold again. There’s also a free repair service for your jeans to ensure they can be worn for even longer!

RePack

RePack

photo credit: RePack

In 2011, the founders of RePack hit upon a novel idea. What if all packaging used within ecommerce and other mail order industries could be used an infinite number of times? A few years later, their bright yellow reusable packaging was born, reducing C02 emissions by up to 80% and completely eliminating trash at the same time.

Offered as a sustainable service to ecommerce stores across the globe, each RePack is made of recycled materials and available in three adjustable sizes. Once the package is received by the consumer, it is mailed back for free to a central processing location and then redistributed to vendors. It’s truly elegant in its simplicity and extremely effective.

Toast

Toast ale

photo credit: Toast

Another food-based startup leading the way for circular practices is Toast. This US/UK-based company takes old bread and uses it as a key ingredient in their delicious, artisanal ale. In addition to this, plastic waste is eliminated with the use of steel kegs and recycled glass used to bottle up the beer. Finally, if all that wasn’t enough, 100% of the company’s profit goes to charity, and this certified B-Corp startup has won numerous awards for the quality of its range of brews.

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