Launched just eight years ago, the circular economy concept has challenged established practices and driven sustainability throughout supply chains.

Lorcan Mekitarian, Sales Director at RPC bpi recycled products, explores the role of FM in this process.

For modern FMs, sustainability has moved on a great deal from the recycling of paper and printer cartridges. FMs now have an integral role to play in helping businesses to achieve circular economy targets. As well as supporting energy reduction, they are responsible for waste management and procurement – both making sure that products are recycled at the end of their life and supporting recycling businesses by buying back products made from recycled material.

The circular economy is similar to the long-established waste hierarchy, which promoted the concept of reduce, reuse, recycle. However, circular economy thinking takes the hierarchy to the next level by considering the entire lifecycle of the product, with a particular focus on the design stage.

Unlike the traditional linear economy, which sources raw materials to make products that are used and then disposed of, the circular economy aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, before recovering products and materials at the end of their life, ready to be manufactured into new products. Success depends on a commitment at every stage of the supply chain – from manufacturers to consumers – to being more resourceful with materials.

The role of facilities management FMs make the logistical decisions in the workplace, and in larger firms they may oversee multi-million- pound contracts. Circularity can be embedded into the procurement of office furniture through internal reuse trading schemes such as Warpit, and in the repair and maintenance of buildings.

It can also be extended to the choice of contract for the provision of smaller but equally crucial products such as refuse sacks. In addition, FMs usually hold responsibility for on-site waste management and their decisions on what to recycle and how it should be collected have a major impact on the future life of the waste materials.

“Circular economy success

depends on a commitment at every stage of the supply chain – from manufacturers to consumers.”

The value of second life products RPC bpi recycled products recycles plastics in the UK to manufacture high performance finished goods. These include recycled refuse sacks and Plaswood, a 100% recycled lumber that can be used as decking or made into timber products such as outdoor seating. In addition to manufacturing 20m refuse sacks each week, the company is the largest recycler of polythene film in Europe – processing over 100,000 tonnes each year. It manages the entire process in-house and is one of just a few UK companies that can claim to offer a genuinely closed loop – circular – manufacturing business.

To understand the value of second life products, it is important to consider the whole lifecycle of the product. The Green Sack range of refuse sacks, for example, is manufactured from recycled British and Irish farm plastics. The finished product has a carbon footprint of at least 35% less than imported refuse sacks which are typically manufactured in the Far East and travel thousands of product miles before they arrive at their end destination.

With attention now turning to plastics and the negative impact of marine litter, dealing with waste close to source has become more important than ever. The beauty of a truly closed loop system is that waste can be processed locally, manufactured into a functional, quality product, and put to use, before it is recycled through a closed loop system back into another well-designed product. The carbon impact of sourcing raw materials and manufacturing from virgin sources is reduced, emissions and fuel requirements associated with transport are minimal and, equally important, funds are directed back into the local economy.


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