Circular Economy in China Forum: Engagement, Innovation, and Scale

Last week,  as part of our “Circular Economy in China” forum, we brought together dozens of young professionals and entrepreneurs to learn and share about current environment, challenges, and future trends of circular economy.

To bring tangibility this topic, which is often discussed academically as a critical “path forward”, we invited three speakers, Hannah Carter, Communications & Campaigns Officer from London Waste and Recycling Board (LWARB), Eduardo Garza, Creative Director & Partner of Waste2Wear, and UB Qiu, Sustainability Lead from Interface, to share their experience with the attendees.

Get young people involved
As an officer in LWARB, Hannah is focused on driving consumer awareness about the issue of waste, particularly the waste generated by a fast fashion consumer mindset.

Specifically, her organization works with brands and charities to collect, redesign and resell second-hand clothes as a way to divert tons of textiles from landfill.

For her, one of the biggest challenges has been to make it easy and fun to do, and that has been something top of mind when LWARB develops their programs.  Be it finding KOL to help spread the message during Fashion Week, organizing clothes swapping events, or identifying the best areas to put their recycling bins.

To date, LWARB has found success through social and traditional media, but more importantly, they have been able to successful divert tons of clothing from the landfill.

Let waste be reborn
Showcasing their work over the last 15 years to turn waste into textiles, Eduardo Garza, Creative Director of Waste2Wear spoke about their process of post-consumer plastic bottles into fabric.

A process that starts with collected post-consumer plastic bottles, which are then washed and shredded into small flakes, formed into pellets, and then extruded through micro-holes to make strands of yarn.  Yarn that can then be woven or knitted into fabrics that can be mixed with natural fabrics like cotton for textile manufacturing.

It is a process that has led them to develop a wide range of applications, with each one bringing improved efficiency and quality to their processes and products.  Processes and products that are now in demand by luxury brands and mass market brands alike, and through a range of collaborations and partnerships with industry, academics, and governments, served as an inspirational case for our participants.

Turn trash to treasure
Showing that a culture of sustainability and innovation could lead to breakthroughs, UB Qiu, Sustainability Lead form Interface, spoke about how Interface has created a number of products where circularity are at the core of the product’s design, production, usage, and “end of life”

A process that began in the 90’s by their founder, Ray Anderson, as simple programs that improved energy and water usage, Interface was able to develop a recovery and recycling program for their products early on as a way to reduce their level of virgin materials.

This process ultimately would lead to a number of innovations in technology, product, and process, with yielded entire new products, but it was UB’s presentation of the “Net Effects” that showed Interface’s commitment.  A program developed in partnership with the Zoological Society of London, through the Net Effects program Interface purchases discarded fishing nets, a major waste material found in oceans, and uses that to make carpet.

How far to go

After the inspiring conversation, an ative Q&A took place where a wide range of topics were discussed, and all the three speakers discussed about different challenges in their own business and particular experiences.

Challenges that each believe are better understood, as more attention comes to this issue, however a lot more needs to be done before the solutions are able to match the size, scale, and speed of the waste challenge.

If interested in learning more, we invite you to click here to view the event video in full, and should you have any questions, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to put you in touch with the speakers.

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