At the recent Smart Cities Conference in NYC, individuals and organizations that are spearheading the Smart Cities movement discussed the circular economy. The circular economy aims to minimize waste and make the most of resources. In other words, the circular economy represents everything that your disposable coffee cup does not.
The individuals that led this conversation included Lindsay Clinton, the Senior VP of Industry Initiatives at the NYCEDC, and Michael Waas, Global VP of Brand Partnerships for TerraCycle. According to both Clinton and Waas, in order for the circular economy to work, there must be a mind shift and behavioral change, and TerraCycle does this by having elementary schools partake in its programs because the passion that young people have is very impactful.
Clinton points out that in NYC there are various initiatives to partake in the circular economy through Demonstration Projects like refashionNYC, which is in partnership with The Department of Sanitation.
Apartment buildings can set up “refashion bins” where tenants can throw old clothes or clothing items they no longer want. Many of the clothes in the refashion bins end up going to Goodwill or Housing Works, but in the case that some clothing items are not reusable they can be sent to different companies that transform and repurpose products for a new use.
Clinton finds herself working closely with cutting-edge incubators, and at Brooklyn Navy Yard there are many startups that are involved in the circular economy – like AlgiKnit, which turns kelp into wearable fiber. Additionally, Clinton mentioned teaming up with knowledge partners like the recently launched Connect Fashion, which leads an exploratory effort to provide digital IDs to clothing items so people can track the garment through its entire lifespan.
While initiatives to create momentum around the circular economy are just getting started here are some interesting, creative ideas that came up during this panel:
Loop Initiative – created by TerraCycle and it allows people to get their favorite products and goods in reusable packaging. You can buy products from your favorite brands (like Crest toothpaste and even Clorox wipes) and Loop will send you a tote with the products in state-of-the-art, reusable containers. Once users are done with the product, they put it back into the tote, schedule a free pick up, and get a refill. Think Modern Day Milkman.
Cigarette Butt Recycling Bins – once again created by TerraCycle, these recycling bins are not only put to good use, but they also reduce general litter up to 85-90% in the areas that they are deployed.