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Adopting the circular economy

By Mayor Malcolm Brodie

Published 11:22 PDT, Tue July 2, 2019

Recently, City Council gave formal direction to incorporate “circular economy” principles into Richmond’s Procurement Policy.

Recently, City Council gave formal direction to incorporate “circular economy” principles into Richmond’s Procurement Policy.

An example of the circular economy approach is that you could soon be able to agree to return furniture purchased from a major manufacturer after 15 years of use. Basically, you will be leasing the item. After 15 years, the company will repurpose the furniture components rather than discarding them. Waste is designed out of the system in the circular economy.

The circular economy approach changes traditional expectations for the life of a product, whether it is clothing, appliances, cars or many other retail products. We currently expect that after a product is produced, distributed and used, it will be thrown away, ultimately ending up in the landfill or an incinerator. This is a linear approach which is expensive, wastes valuable resources and damages our environment. Adopting a circular economy approach, after the first life of a product, we will reuse or repurpose it in whole or in parts and the product then becomes a resource, not waste. It takes bold environmental and economic steps forward from the concept of sustainability we have currently.

For decades, environmental preservation has always been a top City and regional priority. Concern for the environment then evolved into the concept of sustainability—so for every decision, we carried out a triple bottom line examination of environmental, economic and social impacts. In waste management, this led to our very successful recycling programs where we are very close to meeting our goal of diverting 80% of waste from our single family homes by 2020. Our residents achieve these results with our curbside blue box recycling program, the green carts for organics and our ever-expanding list of items being accepted at our the Recycling Depot.

Yet, we found that recycling still wastes valuable resources, so it is not nearly enough by itself. By employing more creative and cost-effective ways of doing business throughout City operations, we can improve our environment, protect our economy and reduce costs.

When you review Richmond’s many programs over recent years, you see the trend towards a circular economy approach. For example, as part of the Community Energy and Emissions Plan, our award-winning District Energy Utility enabled us to reduce community GHG emissions while reducing the use of fossil fuels in the heating and cooling of thousands of living units built in the City Centre.

There are other examples of the circular economy. For instance, with City Council’s upcoming restrictions on the use of single-use plastic items such as straws, bags and foam containers, these products will be replaced by reusable items with less impact on the environment. Richmond is also involved in a leading-edge pilot program to resurface roads using a combination of new and used asphalt. The repurposing of construction and building materials upon demolition is also being encouraged.

Environmentally-sustainable principles have long formed a part of Richmond’s Procurement Policy. Now, by specifically including circular economy concepts into that policy, products purchased by the City must be made to last and be reusable.

So, to keep pace with environmental and consumer expectations, circular economy principles are important for Richmond. It will take collaborative and innovative thinking. Consumer behaviour and expectations also need to be adjusted. These changes will help us to preserve our quality of life for future generations. We look forward to receiving your comments when we roll out the new Procurement Policy which features a circular economy approach.

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