From Toronto FOCUS Spring 2019

The origins of the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – trace back four decades; despite its age the mantra remains important. However, when we look at current lifecycle models we produce and consume more material per capita than ever before. Like all other industries, the building sector has also gone through dramatic evolutions with disruptions to convention, all in the spirit of doing more (or better) with less.

The circular economy is central to this, and aims to extend the value of materials and resources by disrupting our traditional model of consumption: a shift from the linear take-make-disposeto a system where resources are utilized and valued as long as possible in their current form and then become feedstock for other material at end-of-life. The circular economy closes the loop and designs waste out of systems, and extracts as much value as possible at every stage of the value chain. The benefits are multiple: cost savings, environmental impact reductions, and innovative partnerships.

What’s more is that organizations can leverage their buying power to ignite circularity and reap these benefits.

Circular procurement, as defined by the European Union, is the purchase of works, goods, or services that seek to contribute to closed energy and materials loops within supply chains, whilst minimising or … avoiding negative environmental impacts and waste creation across their whole lifecycle.

Applying that definition here in Canada means we have opportunity to reduce waste and increase efficiency across multiple sectors. Governments of all sizes across the country spend some $50 billion annually on goods and services, and building and construction is routinely a high spend category regardless of budget size or location. If circular procurement is adopted by the public sector, vendors that service governments will also be prepared to integrate circular outcomes prescribed by the private sector.

From the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:

Odense Municipality [Denmark] was to construct 40 new residences for youths with disabilities. By rethinking the tender and implementing green procurement requirements the new buildings were constructed using fewer unwanted chemicals, alternative materials such as paper wool for insulation, recycled bricks, and energy efficient solutions including LED lighting and solar water heating. The construction cost of the residences was five per cent higher than business-as-usual, but it is expected that the extra investment will be repaid quickly due to lower operating costs.

As it relates to waste, from the European Commission:

When Public Health Wales (PHW) moved offices it decided to procure an office design and furniture supply contract which would encourage as much reuse of existing office equipment, furniture and flooring as possible, as well as supplying remanufactured goods from other sources. A supplier ‘open day’ communicated the key specifications of designing for a collaborative workspace environment and reusing as much furniture as possible. The winning consortium, which included social enterprises, supplied over 2,500 items. Of these items, only six per cent of them were new, and the rest were remanufactured or refurbished, with a significant share having been reused from PHW’s existing stock. The circular approach diverted 41 tonnes of waste from landfill – with a CO2 saving of 134 tonnes – whilst creating permanent jobs for several disabled and long-term unemployed people.

While government bodies across Europe are beginning to incorporate greater circularity as a key component to purchasing, vendors and manufacturers are responding to these new market requirements. This transition is happening in many different industries.

HP Canada developed a printing subscription service that allows users to have HP Original Ink delivered directly with cartridge recycling and shipping included. HP Original Ink cartridges have a higher capacity and use less packaging materials per page printed than conventional models, which helps reduce materials consumption per printed page. These efforts help reduce the carbon footprint of ink purchase and disposal, decrease energy use, and lower water usage. This initiative also provides prepaid envelopes for users to return used cartridges to HP Planet Partners Return and Recycling Program, which are then reformulated as new HP ink cartridges via the closed-loop recycling process. By incorporating cartridge recycling directly into the business model, the manufacturer also prolongs the product lifecycle, and reduces waste generation and consumption.

We have a tremendous opportunity to advance circular economies in cities and towns right across Canada, and procurement will help us get there. To accelerate the transition and demonstrate the possibilities Recycling Council of Ontario is hosting a first-of-its-kind Circular Procurement Summit from June 11-13 in Toronto to unite governments, suppliers and vendors, and experts from around the world to verify the importance of procurement; demonstrate how circular economy integration fosters unique partnerships; and provide resources and tools to support concepts into practice and measure economic, environmental, and social benefits.

For more information and to register visit