What is the circular economy?
The traditional economic model is a linear one: take, make, and dispose. It relies on large quantities of easily accessible materials and energy, and it results in massive amounts of waste. Unbelievably, 90% of the raw materials used in manufacturing become waste before the product even leaves the factory, while 80% of products made get thrown away within the first six months of their life (opens in new tab).
A circular economy is an attractive alternative in which we keep resources in use for longer, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life. The circular economy model gives companies a secure supply of resources to make products. It also protects consumers from the price hikes caused by growing resource scarcity. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg.
In January 2018 the European Union (EU) adopted a new set of measures to ensure its Circular Economy Action Plan is implemented across Europe as efficiently as possible. It is estimated that shifting towards circularity could add £760 billion to the global economy by 2025 and create 1,000,000 new jobs within five years (opens in new tab). The Waste & Resources Action Programme similarly estimates that the EU could benefit from an improved trade balance of £90 billion (roughly €105 billion) and the creation of 160,000 jobs (opens in new tab) because of the circular economy.
The impact of big business
Large corporations, like Epson, have the power to effect change quickest given their reach throughout global supply chains and impact through product development to make the circular economy model a reality.
Even in today’s digitally powered world, the printer is considered an essential business tool by 77% of employees in EU5 – the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Research also confirms better comprehension, concentration and lower stress levels result from reading printed text as opposed to digital screens (opens in new tab).
For example, our WorkForce Pro inkjet printers now use up to 96% less energy, produce up to 94% less waste and emit up to 92% less CO2 than comparable laser printers (opens in new tab).
Not only that, but companies could also save up to £156 million on their energy bill and 333,041 metric tons of CO2 emissions in Europe as a result of choosing Epson inkjet printing technology over laser printers.
Creating new schemes, products and services
In addition to improving the design and performance of existing products, applying the principles of the circular economy has required Epson to think about its business in a new light. We have commenced our Circular Economy Project to ensure this thinking model is reflected throughout our company and the community we work in, such as recycling printer cartridges at Epson Telford and third party certification throughout our processes.
As evidence of the benefits of the circular economy, we have already developed new products, services, revenue streams and jobs as part of the effort to mitigate against the environmental impacts of printing. Here’s an introduction to a couple of our favourites:
Print365 is the first managed print service for SMEs. It doesn’t just benefit small businesses however, but the environment too. Print365 is underpinned by the Epson WorkForce Pro Inkjet range, which boast the impressive environmental performance outlined above. Just as importantly, however, businesses are able to manage their printing through on online portal which gives them access to data on printer usage. This helps managers to analyse and improve print behaviours in their office by establishing rules and guidelines to reduce unnecessary printing.
Embrace the opportunity
The Green Choice (opens in new tab), Epson Europe’s Sustainability Report 2017, details how we are making strides in mitigating environmental impact in our organisation, in our products and across our supply chain. Further, our goal to achieve a 50% lower environmental impact across our whole product lifecycle will take this commitment into the years to come.
Based on Epson’s own experience, the lesson for other businesses is to embrace the potential of the circular economy – and the product and service benefits it can bring to your business, your customers and society.
Henning Ohlsson is CSR Director of Epson Europe (opens in new tab).