CIRCULAR BUSINESS MODELS: COLLABORATIVE RECYCLING & REUSE
Future owners of this model will develop a collection system for sorted residues by involving all stakeholders; citizens, but also municipalities, businesses and companies exploiting waste.
The recycling activities are supported by a smartphone app, a traceability module and an eco-credits incentives scheme, which rewards consumers for sorting their waste and recycling reusable or repairable items.
Q: What do you think the main achievements of this innovative circular BM are?
A: Circular Business Models based on reuse and recycling will typically focus on how to obtain higher profits from waste. But most of the time citizens don’t know where their waste ends up. We realised though that where smartphones and clothes are concerned, a large majority of people do actually want to know what happens to these products once they are disposed of. So we took a different approach and developed a traceability module which actually provides information to the consumer on whether their waste was recycled or reused. Being able to provide this information is a great achievement because it engages consumers and makes citizens feel part of the whole process.
Another important achievement has been connecting manufacturers, recyclers and end-users and sharing information flows in the same space, something that is not common to businesses in general.
Q: What were the main challenges you were confronted with on your journey towards making this BM a reality?
A: Obviously, a smartphone user wants his new phone to last for several years but both the manufacturer and the recycler benefit from the disposal of the product as early as possible. The biggest challenge was finding a means acceptable to recyclers and manufacturers of creating a fair, impartial and simple method to estimate incentives for the end-user. We had to find a balance between lifetime, recycling/reuse possibilities and avoiding loss of materials, such as metals, minerals and plastics, by recycling).
Equally, identifying the benefits of our model for each stakeholder, such as recyclers, manufacturers, incentive givers, end-users, municipalities, waste managers, was another major challenge for us.
Finally, applying the same business model to very different products such as WEEEs or biowaste required us to identify synergies between these sectors.
Q: In your opinion, what were the most important innovations that resulted from your work for the CIRC4Life project?
A: The most important innovation has to be the eco-credits method. The eco-credits method is a way to provide incentives to end-users and was developed using a co-creation model involving end-users, recyclers, manufacturers and academia. The method takes into account the scarcity and the recyclability of the raw materials making it scientifically robust but at the same time easy to apply.
Q: What was the most successful way in which you engaged with citizens?
A: It was interesting to see that, depending on the level of education, country and age, citizens were either eager to receive incentives in exchange for their wastes or were more environmentally conscious and didn’t expect anything in return. Initially, as we believed that incentives would be a driving force for end-users, we introduced discounts in participating local stores and free theatre tickets in relation to the amount of eco-credits gained. But through our survey we discovered that citizens also appreciate non-financial incentives. Based on their feedback it was decided to add tree planting to the incentive scheme for disposing of old electronic devices. It appears that providing more information to people on the reuse and recycling of their waste and providing them with incentives which improve the environment is overall the best way to obtain successful engagement.
Fernando Cirez Oto
Head of Sustainability and Circular Economy Energy and Environment Group, CIRCE
CIRC4LIfe Recycling Reuse Business Model Owner