Celebrate Canada’s First Circular Economy Month

October 3, 2022

After over 20 years of celebrating the Waste Reduction Week in Canada campaign the third week of October, the Circular Innovation Council says there’s still a lot to be done in terms of getting Canadians to explore a more resource-based economy. That’s why they’re expanding the campaign and introducing Canada’s first-ever Circular Economy Month this October 2022! With a majority of Canadians still unsure of what the circular economy is, we spoke with Caitlin Perry, program manager, and Audrey Manuel, resource development and outreach co-ordinator at the Circular Innovation Council, to learn more. —Vita Daily

What is a circular economy?

Circular economy is a new way of looking at how we use—and ultimately reuse—materials and resources. Our economy is resource-based, meaning it depends on the ability to preserve finite resources in order to succeed. Historically, products have been produced and consumed through a linear process (make, take, waste), being designed and used for convenience with a limited life and diminishing value over time. Environmental, economic, and social costs aren’t considered in the purchase price. Circularity incorporates better design that consumes less raw material during production, maximizes value during use, and improves products and services that are intended to eliminate waste. A circular economy ultimately moves beyond a traditionally linear approach to create a more sustainable, longer-lasting and higher-value system of use. While the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) have become everyday terms and are the foundation to environmental education, moving to a circular economy shifts our focus to prioritize environmental protection from the start. In a circular economy, products are re-designed to optimize their usefulness and lifecycle, reuse is promoted, collection is improved, and investments are made in infrastructure to ultimately develop markets for recycled material which are then used to create optimized products again; an economy that filters through a circular approach maximizes resources for years to come. 

What is Circular Economy Month?

Circular Economy Month is our public awareness campaign to advance the national conversation around the circular economy. Designed to empower and educate Canadians on what a circular economy is and how the concept can be adopted, the new campaign runs for the entire month of October, celebrating circular lifestyles and new innovations while promoting the benefits of creating a circular economy. Check out the promotional video created for the launch of Circular Economy Month on October 3, 2022. Expanding on the successes of Waste Reduction Week in Canada which has been engaging Canadians since 2001, Circular Economy Month promotes a new message each week:

  • Week 1 (Oct 1-9) introduces Canadians to the circular economy, explaining what it is and how it works.
  • Week 2 (Oct 10-16) highlights the environmental benefits of circular innovation, including cleaner oceans and freshwater, biodiversity protection, climate change mitigation, water conservation and reducing carbon emissions.
  • Week 3 (Oct 17-23) sees the return of Waste Reduction Week in Canada, focusing on waste reduction in textiles, e-waste, plastics and food, as well as diving into the sharing economy and swap and repair benefits.
  • Week 4 (Oct 24-31) highlights the social and economic benefits of circular living and ingenuity, including innovation, job and skills creation, economic savings, community engagement and boosts to local economies.

Why the change to Circular Economy Month instead of Waste Reduction Week?

Waste Reduction Week in Canada successfully focused on the concepts of waste reduction and recycling as a key component of our transition to a circular economy. However, we need much more than reduction and recycling alone to make the switch. Advancing a circular economy requires bigger and bolder innovation. We realized that educating Canadians on this new model of consumption involves more than just one week. We’re excited to leverage over 20 years of success with Waste Reduction Week in Canada—continuing to incorporate it into the third week of October—but as a key part of a larger conversation that is integral to driving change and climate action.

Why is this important?

Recycling alone isn’t enough to drive impactful, long-lasting change. There are several steps that need to be taken to be able to move towards a low-carbon society. It’s important that Canadians learn how they can drive circularity by demanding and purchasing circular options and innovations. Education is a key component of transitioning our current economy out of its wasteful, linear model and into a system that prioritizes reuse of materials and resources at its core. The effects of climate change are clear, and we need to take immediate action at all levels to help stop and reverse the damage that’s been done to our planet. Today’s climate requires bigger, broader and bolder innovation, with a respect for the full value of resources ‒ beyond just recycling them.

How impactful can a switch to a circular economy be?

Circularity can improve the value of natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, and eliminate waste. It redefines value, and encourages innovation in product design and business delivery systems. Transitioning to a circular economy doesn’t balance economic, environmental, and social priorities in isolation: it delivers them simultaneously. From an economic standpoint, there are massive benefits to be realized. The transition to a circular economy has the potential to create trillions of dollars in innovation opportunities – the procurement of low-carbon goods and services alone is estimated to be an opportunity worth almost CA$3 trillion for businesses. Business models that prioritize reuse create a shorter supply chain, which increases environmental and economic benefits by reducing greenhouse gases, creating jobs, and stimulating local economies. For example, a container refill/share business model consumes fewer resources, while reducing capital costs, stimulating innovations (e.g. new services to make sharing containers viable), increasing customer loyalty and improving business reputation. Environmentally, we need to do more to achieve our climate goals. As documented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, our ability to achieve climate targets requires us to address the 45 percent of overlooked global emissions generated from how we make and use products and how we produce food. A circular economy can help tackle these overlooked emissions by transforming the ways goods are made and used. Plastics are a good example of how circularity can create a profound impact. At present, 87% of plastics end up in the landfill or environment, representing a loss of CA$7.8 billion, based on the value of virgin plastic. If 90% of plastics were diverted from landfill through either reuse programs, improved collection infrastructure, or innovations to sharable use options, CA$500 million in annual costs would be avoided, 1.8 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions would be saved and 42,000 jobs–both direct and indirect–would be created in Canada. Not to mention there would be fewer plastics in our Great Lakes and waterways, and microplastic generation would be dramatically reduced, improving not only the environment, but the health of our communities.

How can people get involved?

Take the time to learn more about the circular economy and how small changes can make a big impact. Our goal for this year is ultimately education, as 87% of Canadians are still uncertain about what circular economy actually means. We have an abundance of resources available online for communities to leverage to learn more, and we encourage Canadians to share what they’ve learned online using the hashtag #CircularEconomyMonth. We are also once again asking communities, businesses, schools, and individuals from across Canada to renew their commitment and celebrate sustainability by declaring Oct. 1 – 31, 2022 as Circular Economy Month. Certificates and statements can be shared online—by declaring you will join the likes of Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, governments across Canada, and program Founding Partners TELUS, The Beer Store, Kal Tire—and several other partners in celebrating Circular Economy Month throughout October.  Canadians can also attend any of the registered events happening throughout Circular Economy Month or plan their own! From cleanup days, clothing swaps and zero-waste challenges, to recycling collections and documentary screenings, there are tons of options to get hands-on or learn more about circular living, with more events being added each day. Circular Innovation Council’s own Share, Reuse, Repair Hub also offers a great place to start for those in York Region looking to dip their toes into circular living. Plus, Canadians can make their own small changes at home to create a more circular lifestyle. Opting to purchase circular-designed products that are meant to be reused, refurbished, repaired, and dismantled helps to support innovation and further development of circular products, as well as supporting companies that will lease or rent their products and offer to take them back for recycling after use.


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