How We Use a Circular Economy Model to Reduce Waste and Create Jobs
Our current economy is substantially linear: materials from the Earth are used to make a product, which eventually is thrown away. The primary activities are production and waste. A circular economy prevents the creation of waste in the first place: products are made with pre-existing materials, which are then eventually repurposed into new products for consumers.
At Public Thread, our process is rooted in this circular system. First, our supply partners, like Steelcase, Outfront Media and Chaco's, provide us with their spent materials, which we then upcycle into high-quality goods like backpacks, totes, purses and masks.
"When you talk about a circular economy, we are talking about where something starts and the route it takes to finish its lifecycle: from the manufacturer to us, to the consumer, and hopefully back to us," Lisa Knight, COO of Public Thread, said. "Every time that product comes back, we are finding ways to do something new with it, right down to grinding it down and using it as stuffing in a product. We are making as much as we can out of the pre-existing material, down to the smallest scrap, to keep it out of the landfill. "
The widely practiced models of fashion productions are gravely lacking when it comes to sustainability. Fashion production accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. Less than 1% of used clothing is re-made into new clothing, while 85% of all textiles end up in landfills each year. At Public Thread, we have diverted more than 100,000 pounds of used textiles and transformed them into beautiful products.
According to the Circularity Gap Reporting Initiative 2021, 8.6% percent of the world's economy is circular as companies in industries worldwide are making the shift to this compassionate, sustainable and profitable production model.
"I don't know if anyone will ever get to absolute zero waste, but a circular economy so greatly reduces the amount of waste that goes into the landfill, which reduces greenhouse gases that impact the weather, growth of plants, our soil... it has a huge impact that we can't afford to ignore," Knight said.
Knight also emphasizes that a circular economy increases communities' economic and social health.
"A circular economy has such a positive impact on the community," she expressed. "By giving materials a longer life, it creates more jobs right here in our community. We can employ local people at a living wage and engage students in our practices so they can be part of a better future."
For more information and to stay up to date on the development of circular economies, visit the ellenmacarthurfoundation.org.