Image Source: Jimmy Jeong, City of Vancouver

Circular Economy

In Vancouver, we’re working to close the loop

The circular economy is an economic model that extends the life cycle of products. Throughout this process, waste is eliminated through the reduction, reuse, repair, and recycling of materials to limit inefficiencies and close gaps within the system. It aims to effectively design out waste.

Image Source: The European Environment Agency, Circular Economy System Diagram

Circular practices help to reduce the amount of finite raw materials taken from the earth, ensuring a more prosperous environment for future generations. Reusing materials results in a parallel reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts, increased innovation, and the opportunity for significant cost reductions.

Global waste will increase from 2.01 billion tonnes of waste in 2016 to 3.4 billion tonnes per year over the next 30 years. The Metro Vancouver Integrate Solid Waste and Resource Management has set targets to reduce the quantity of waste generated per capita to 90 percent or less of 2010 volumes by 2020, based on a five-year average. Metro Vancouver has active campaigns to locally reduce food waste and rethink the textile purchasing industry.

The circular economy is urgently needed to help address the global climate emergency – it has been proven to help reduce CO2 emissions and drastically reduce waste. Through its redesign, reuse, recycling and retooling of materials, the circular economy will create additional jobs and revenue streams while improving the region’s self-sufficiency and resilience. For every 10,000 tonnes of resources that are recycled rather than incinerated, an estimated additional 36 jobs are created.

By the numbers

Drivers to the Circular Economy

The circular economy is increasingly expanding mainstream models of business and economic decision-making.

Building Global Momentum

Changes in global commerce and trends have heavily influenced the uptake of the circular economy. Global leaders in circularity, such as the World Circular Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, have been instrumental for their abilities to connect organizations, and share information, solutions and thought leadership.

Untapped Economic Value

One of the main driving factors in circularity is the intrinsic economic value of circular materials from a cost savings perspective, as well as from monetization of potential new market opportunities. A recent VEC study estimates that if the Metro Vancouver region were to switch to a circular food system, the combined value of annual sales and costs savings would be just under $200 million.

Supportive Government Policies

In all levels of government, supportive circular economy policies and initiatives have allowed for an environment of increasing growth or circular practice and enabling for further uptake. However, while there are policies that support accelerating circularity, there are currently no policies at the municipal, regional, or provincial level to develop a circular strategy. There is still much work to do and VEC continues to advocate for more enabling policies for the circular economy.

Update: On October 15, the City of Vancouver Council unanimously passed the motion, Improving the Circularity in Vancouver’s Economy, with much support from industry and non-profits. VEC will work with City of Vancouver staff to report annually on progress and track global best practices.
 

Municipal Regional Provincial
Federal

International policies and guiding frameworks include the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s Policy Guidance on Resource Efficiency.

Vancouver’s Circular Strengths

Vancouver is a small but global city, with highly interconnected businesses. Being a port city means a lot of material flows through our city and provides many opportunities for material facilitation and exchange between companies and sectors. The Vancouver and BC economies are heavily dependent on natural resources, and the construction industry is a large component of them. Within Vancouver there has been a 35% increase in green jobs between 2011 – 2018, measured across seven green economic sectors: green buildings, cleantech, green mobility, materials management, sustainability services, environmental engineering and local food. Three materials offer the biggest opportunity for advancing circularity in Vancouver: food, textiles and construction material.

Top Sectors for Circularity

Food and Food Waste

Vancouver has a very high rate of composting and numerous businesses who work to prevent further food waste and bring food into higher value uses than just compost.

Textiles

To reduce the 22,000 tonnes of appeal that ends up in the Greater Vancouver landfill every year, many organization are partnering together to recover and divert textile waste.

Green Buildings

Vancouver is home to the only commercial building deconstruction business in Canada, and numerous others are working to reduce and reuse construction materials.

Local Success Stories

Greater Vancouver is an emerging hub for the circular economy, and is home to many circular businesses, across multiple sectors. Here is a small sample of leading local circular economy businesses:
 

Anaconda Systems: Processes organic waste into value-added soil amendments for reuse in agriculture

Chop Value: Divert disposable chopsticks from landfills, and through their micro factories create minimalist, circular products. Products include anything from homeware to décor.

Fabcycle: Work directly with local apparel designers, factories, and manufacturers to collect the scraps, cut-offs and end of rolls that are left during the production process and reuse and recycle what the manufacturers could not use.

FoodMesh: Simplify the local food distribution channel by meshing supply and demand. Provide apps, programs and services that help businesses safely donate, claim donations, buy and sell products.

Goodly Foods: Collect food that would be considered imperfect and turn them into delicious soups, stews and sauces.

Quadrogen: Produce biogas clean-up and processing solutions used by water treatment plants, landfills, and agricultural digesters to convert waste biogas into sources of clean, renewable heat and power.

Susgrainable: Transform the fiber and protein beer “waste” into premium baked goods. This is done by dehydrating the barley from craft breweries into their Signature Upcycled Barley Flour, used in every baked good.

Unbuilders: Work to disassemble buildings and upcycle the materials into the supply chains – minimizing waste. They have 99% salvage and recycle rate on single-family homes.

Want to be featured?

If you are a successful circular economy business in the Metro Vancouver region and would like to see your business listed here, please contact info@vancouvereconomic.com.

Resources for Business

New support services and networks are being created in response to this growing sector with the objectives of assisting businesses and entrepreneurs with new circular business ideas, or to help existing businesses adopt circular practices. A recent example is Project Zero Circular Incubator, an incubator program on Vancouver Island run by Synergy Foundation, just launched in 2019. The incubator will offer its third cohort in early 2021, and expand the program to the Lower Mainland. Of the 2019 cohort, 85 percent of businesses were able to launch and stay in business through COVID-19, and 67 percent of the businesses are owned by women.

VEC programs for new ventures and startups

 

Smart Transformation

Project Greenlight

A network of large asset holders such as municipalities, utilities and developers work with entrepreneurs and innovators to use these assets to test solutions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and waste – acceleration the transition to a clean economy.
 
Program Launch: Fall 2020
 
Coming Soon

Free Webinar

Success and Opportunity in Vancouver’s Circular Economy

This three part series highlights different aspects of Vancouver’s regional circular economy, featuring the local circular businesses, tools to help businesses adopt circularity, and the opportunity to hear from successful early-stage ventures.
 
Program Launch: October 2020
 
Learn More & Register

Looking for more resources?

 
Are you are looking to implement more circular practices in your business or are looking to connect with other companies who are tackling similar challenges? We’ve compiled a handy list of recent research, resources and networks for your perusal.
 
Discover More Resources