In the span of a single lifetime we have gone from the Wright Brothers to Mars Rovers; from Sears & Roebuck to 1 Click Shopping; and from a population of 2 billion to one of more than 8 billion. Our world today is hardly comparable to that of our grandparents' - yet the economic principles that distribute our wealth and resources have changed very little since the early 1900's.
The unprecedented success of 20th century capitalism created unimaginable growth, but it also left us with an economic model that destroys our planet's natural systems and exhausts our supply of natural resources. If we want to continue our success into the 21st century and beyond, we need to transition to an economy that serves the needs of modern society AND respects the natural limits of the planet. MCW exists to facilitate this transition.
To "Throw Something Away" is a Myth . . .
Everything ends up somewhere. "Throwing it away" really just means moving it from one place to another. Sometimes, things get "recycled". But more often than not they become part of an ever-growing stream of waste, and eventually end up in a landfill, an incinerator or an ocean.
Waste is Entirely a Human Creation...
It doesn't exist in the natural world because its never created. Through a series of elaborate material cycles that have been around far longer than humans - every part of nature eventually becomes "food" for something else.
Explore the life cycle of a leaf vs a plastic bottle. And see what kind of impact each of them has on their local ecosystems.
Why does waste matter? Aside from the general unpleasantness of garbage, waste contributes to pollution and resource scarcity.
The concept of waste didn't exist until we began combining natural resources in ways that make them difficult - if not impossible to be used by other parts of nature. Earth's ecosystems have been using and reusing the same resources for billions of years, but human-made products like plastic and electronics are not compatible with natural cycles. So we end up with waste.
For the first 10,000 years of human dominion on Earth, the amount of waste created was inconsequential; and the type of waste was mostly biodegradable. But the industrial revolution changed that. With the advent of machines that can manifest human ingenuity at unprecedented levels - quantity quickly overtook quality as the standard for economic output. The amount of waste created today is nearly incomprehensible (292 million tons per year from US households alone), and certainly unsustainable.
Source: US EPA - Click Image for More
Towards the end of the 20th century, the problems attributed to waste were becoming harder and harder to ignore. Landfills were leaching poisonous chemicals, incinerators were spewing toxic gas, islands of garbage were forming in the oceans, and irreplaceable resources were being used up faster than anyone previously thought possible.
And so began the era of post-industrial recycling programs...
So it's no wonder that after 40 years of trying, the American recycling system still recovers barely 35% of household waste. Most of which is down-cycled into inferior materials that are unable to be recycled again. While recycling is absolutely necessary for a circular economy, the waste management industry gave us little more than a different colored trash can and a false sense of virtue when we asked them to solve the waste problem.
When "recycling" results in materials that have lower quality and less value than their original form. Typically a result of poorly designed products that are difficult to recycle and inefficient systems of material recovery.
This was a step in the right direction, but was doomed to fail from the start. Instead of designing products for cyclicity or incentivizing the recovery of valuable resources - we turned to the industry that collects, burns and buries our trash for a solution. We asked companies that have invested billions of dollars in the equipment and infrastructure needed to haul trash from point A to point B, to reduce the amount of trash that's hauled from point A to point B. That's like asking McDonald's to make Americans eat less hamburgers.
Managing resources is a complex issue that requires a comprehensive solution - one that addresses the problem, instead of treating its symptoms. There's no silver bullet, but there are some good ideas. The circular economy offers the framework for a restorative economy that can meet the needs of modern society without compromising the natural limits of the planet.
Rather than a single solution from a centralized source, the circular economy is fueled by individual companies taking responsibility for where their products end up. Instead of deciding how to reuse stuff after it's been manufactured and consumed - reuse and recovery are built into products from the very beginning.
Regeneration by Design...
Better design coupled with systems of sharing, reuse, refurbishment and recycling keep man-made, technical materials (that are used to make things like cell phones or blenders) in endless cycles of use; while biological materials like wood or cotton are safely returned to naturally occurring cycles of the planet's ecosystem.
Nature's technique with a splash of human ingenuity.
Its more than a theory. Some of the world's most iconic companies like Google, Nike and IKEA have entire divisions dedicated to facilitating a circular economy. And new startups are popping up the world over with innovative solutions to some of waste's most complex problems.
In a circular economy, the relationship between company and consumer needs to be treated as more of a partnership than a transaction. A perfectly designed product is no better than a monstrous hybrid if it ends up in the trash can; and the perfect circular system is useless if no one's buying the products that make it up. MCW's role is to facilitate this partnership and tighten the bond between consumers that want to build a circular lifestyle and the companies that enable them to do so.
This is achieved through 2 primary vessels:
Circular Products Catalog
The CPC is a lineup of products that have been researched and rated for circularity by MCW. It serves 2 primary functions:
Provide shoppers with a listing of products they know we designed to be part of a circular system.
Inform shoppers how to properly use these products so they remain part of the circular system as intended.
Commitment to circular models, cooperation up and down the supply chain and the exchange of information are key to building a circular economy. The MCW Alliance is a coalition of businesses and community leaders dedicated to each of these in a way that facilitates the transition to a circular economy.
We also post content about new products, ideas, companies and people that are accelerating the transition to a circular economy on the MCW feed and various social media outlets.
Who We Are
Do you want to play a role in the transition to a circular economy? Here's how to get involved: