The Circular Economy: Creating a Sustainable Future
As we all know, the world today faces several major environmental challenges, including the threat of climate change, deforestation, a loss of biodiversity and growing pollution. These problems in large part stem from what is often known as the linear economic model, which is based on an extractive "take-make-dispose" cycles in which resources are extracted, used to create products, and then discarded as waste. This model has led to the depletion of natural resources and the accumulation of waste in landfill, oceans and other vital and fragile ecosystems. Addressing these environmental issues requires business and consumers shift towards a more circular economic model based on sustainable resource use and the reduction of waste through reuse, an ambition to which DS Smith is deeply committed.
The circular economy is a new economic model that aims to transform the way we use resources in production and consumption, minimising waste and pollution while maximising resource efficiency. DS Smith is fully committed to pursuing this sustainable, restorative and regenerative system, whereby products and materials are kept in use for as long as possible through the general principles of reuse, repair, refurbishment, and recycling.
What is a Circular Economy?
The circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy and is based on principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use for as long as possible, and regenerating the earth’s natural ecosystems.
By keeping products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer, we improve the productivity of these resources and drastically reduce our demand on resources, creating a more sustainable society for now and for future generations.
The circular economy aims to create a closed-loop system where resources are continuously cycled back into the economy, reducing the need for virgin materials and minimising waste generation. This gradually decouples economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and designs waste out of the system. It is the essence of sustainability. By closing the gap between production and the cycles of our natural ecosystems, the circular economy truly represents a new dawn for the economy and our environment.
Why is a Circular Economy Important?
Recent studies suggest that up to four out of five people say climate change is an important issue for them and that they are more likely to purchase a product that is clearly labelled as environmentally friendly. Similarly, almost two-thirds of consumers state that they are willing to pay more for sustainable packaging. In a context where the average consumer has admitted to throwing away up to 40% or their recyclable goods into normal domestic rubbish, the sustainable and environmentally sound production of DS Smith’s packaging solutions make us an ideal partner for all businesses seeking to address these shifting consumer attitudes and keep ahead of the regulatory curve.
Moving towards a more circular economy with companies like DS Smith has a range of benefits for our economy, our environment and for our people, including reducing pressure on natural resources, improving the security of the supply of raw materials, increasing business competitiveness, stimulating innovation, and boosting sustainable economic growth. Consumers in this model are provided with more durable and innovative products that increase their quality of life and save money in the long term.
For your business, the bottom line of DS Smith’s commitment to the circular economic model means there is no need to compromise between:
Protecting your product.
Making your entire supply cycle more efficient.
Boosting your environmental performance.
Delivering a better customer experience.
Principles of the Circular Economy
The circular economy is based on several principles that guide the transition towards a more sustainable economic model. These principles include:
Designing for circularity: Products and services are designed with their end-of-life in mind, making it easier to recover and regenerate materials. This approach involves minimising waste during the production process, using durable and reusable materials, and designing products that can be easily repaired, reused, or recycled.
Keeping materials in use: Materials are kept in use for as long as possible through reuse, repair, and recycling, reducing the need for virgin materials and minimising waste generation.
Regenerating natural systems: Natural systems are regenerated through sustainable practices such as regenerative agriculture and reforestation, which help to restore ecosystems and protect biodiversity.
Using renewable energy: The circular economy relies on renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
DS Smith’s Circular Design Metrics
One of the most important principles of the circular economy is designing for circularity, which involves products and services being designed with their end-of-life in mind, making it easier to recover and regenerate materials. This approach involves minimising waste during the production process, using durable and reusable materials, and designing products that can be easily recycled. As we know that over 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined at the design stage, the focus for manufacturers such as DS Smith thus moves to designing products that are durable, recyclable, and produced from eminently sustainable sources.
Understanding the old truism of “what gets measure gets improved”, DS Smith developed a series of circular design metrics which give us an accurate picture of the degree of implementation of circular design principles in the production of our packaging solutions. DS Smith was the first company in the packaging solutions industry to develop such a system, demonstrating our commitment to helping our clients vastly improve the sustainability of their operations.
Our Circular Design Metrics provide quantifiable data to show how circular a given packaging solution is and allow quick identification of the areas of improvement required. The metrics in the DS Smith system measure Supply Chain Optimisation, Recyclability, Planet Safety, Material Utilisation, Renewable Sources, Recycled Content, the Carbon Footprint and Design for Reuse.
This set of standard metrics makes it easier to track progress over time and to compare different solutions. The metrics evaluate the entire lifecycle of the packaging solution, from material sourcing to disposal. By providing a quantifiable way to evaluate the circularity of packaging designs, the Circular Design Metrics encourage companies to develop more sustainable packaging solutions, ultimately reducing the environmental impact of packaging on the planet.
The metrics quickly highlight opportunities for potential improvement and help brands drive sustainability performance through their packaging, reducing waste and pollution. The metrics also identify non-recyclable elements, non-planet safe materials, non-renewable elements, and non-recycled materials in a design. The goal is to minimise these elements and eliminate excessive waste, to identify safer alternatives, to find renewable alternatives, and to reduce non-recycled content. The metrics can be used to close the loop on cardboard and paper packaging, ensuring materials are kept in the supply cycle for as long as possible and that maximum value is obtained.
How DS Smith is leading the way in circularity
DS Smith is ambitious in using innovation to tackle some of the world’s most complex sustainability challenges. While we aim to manufacture 100% recyclable or reusable packaging, today we are at 99.2%. In addition, over 98% of our production waste is recycled, and we can make, use, collect and recycle cardboard packaging within 14 days. Moreover, our product is based on a renewable resource: 100% of our papers are recycled or chain of custody certified and 3 trees are planted for every tree that is harvested in our supply chain. This has a significant emissions abatement effect, with young growing trees absorbing significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. Further, by recycling the paper fibres in our cardboard, we can save over 360,000 trees from being cut down every year.
We are recognised around the world for our innovation and for the quality of our packaging. Our products improve transport and storage efficiency, boost retail presentation, and increase product sales for our customers – and we do it all with sustainable corrugated cardboard.
DS Smith is committed to a Now and Next Sustainability Strategy, which positions us as a sustainable leader within the industry. This strategy has been designed to establish a clear roadmap to addressing immediate challenges while working to create solutions aligned with the principles of the circular economy, replacing problem plastics, taking carbon out of supply chains, and providing innovative recycling solutions.