A circular economy represents a golden opportunity to combine corporate sustainability with profits, but it is obstructed by weak chemicals legislations in every part of the world. Today, many hazardous chemicals are unregulated and widely used in all kinds of everyday items. And as these items are the very same we recycle and turn into new products in a circular world, it also means we are recycling their toxic contents.
This is the key takeaway message in a new publication from the chemical expert organisation ChemSec – the International Chemical Secretariat.
In many cases, the corporate world is ahead of legislation, and the notion that there is a contradiction between corporate profits and sustainability is becoming increasingly outdated.
ChemSec’s publication features six chemically progressive companies – Apple, Coop Denmark, H&M, Ikea and recycling specialist Sarp Industries – that tell the story about how they work with chemicals and circular business models.
“The notion that there is a contradiction between corporate profits and sustainability is becoming increasingly outdated”
These case stories illustrate how a growing number of brands and retailers account for weak legislation by setting much higher chemical requirements of their own. Now, this positive corporate movement is on a collision course with lax circular legislation that allows for recycled materials with toxic contents.
“More and more companies are interested in recycled materials, but only if they are free from toxic chemicals. Chemicals legislation therefore needs to be set up in a way that actually supports a toxic-free circular economy. That means picking up the pace, banning the use of obviously problematic substances and raising the requirements for chemical transparency in materials”, says Anne-Sofie Bäckar.
In the publication, ChemSec also calls on manufacturers and recycling industries to see the business potential of a non-toxic circular economy.
“The companies who are able to keep waste loops separated and produce recycled materials without toxic content will have a serious head start as we move towards a circular economy”, Ms Bäckar concludes.