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Need to Know

Charlotte, N.C., Launches New Economic Model

Partnership Creates Closed Loop System for Post-consumer Materials
Corporations and governments want to know that their e-waste vendors and partners are working toward a circular economy. “For instance, we are zero waste, zero landfill,” explains Shegerian. “So, if we take in 30 million pounds of electronic waste every month and destroy it and commoditize it, we sell the steel, the plastic, we recycle the glass, we sell all the circuit boards with our downstream partners. Zero goes to landfill and zero goes to waste.” Another part of the business is asset management and data destruction. “Our partners ask us to destroy the data, fix the materials up, clean them up and then repackage and resell them,” he adds. “So, that’s a growing business that goes for beneficial reuse for secondary and tertiary markets around the world and in the U.S.” To prevent e-waste, the global sustainability certification TCO Certified has a circular approach to the production and consumption of IT products. By requiring that IT products are durable, repairable and upgradeable as well as recyclable, products can live longer and materials can be recovered. “There is not one big solution to this problem—it’s all about taking many small steps in the right direction. For example, with TCO Certified, generation 8, the use of hazardous substances in IT products is reduced or eliminated to enable recycling of materials when the product has reached the end of its usable life,” said Andreas Rehn, development manager at TCO Development, the organization behind TCO Certified, in a statement. “TCO Certified also requires that important spare parts are made available and that batteries are replaceable, so we don’t have to discard products just because the battery has lost its capacity,” added Rehn.
The city’s Circular Charlotte model would use waste to potentially create hundreds of new jobs and significant revenue by 2040.

The city of Charlotte, N.C., announced its plan to launch Circular Charlotte, a new, regenerative economic model designed to produce zero waste and to generate hundreds of jobs and significant revenue.

The city worked with Metabolic and Envision Charlotte to create the study “Circular Charlotte: Toward a Zero Waste and Inclusive City.” The study analyzed Charlotte’s waste stream and found Charlotte’s 900,000 tons of annual waste represent a potential residual value of roughly $111 million per year. By adopting a comprehensive waste diversion strategy, Charlotte found it could create hundreds of jobs by harnessing material instead of dumping it into ever-growing landfills.

Charlotte noted it is the first city in the United States to make a commitment to adopting the circular economy as a public sector strategy.  

The Circular Charlotte strategy will put the findings of the report into action through five business cases that will serve as the foundation for Circular Charlotte. To begin implementation of the strategy, the city will focus efforts on four of the five business cases:

  • Creating hundreds of jobs by developing a circular industry based on feeding 50,000 tons of food waste to black soldier fly larvae, which can be converted into pellets to use as feed on North Carolina poultry farms.
  • Saving hundreds of thousands of gallons of water by developing a closed loop textiles chain for linens and uniforms used in hotels and hospitals, cutting demand for environmentally damaging cotton and polyester production and offering opportunities to work in a whole new industry.
  • Providing entrepreneurs (who might not otherwise be able to afford to develop their circular economy business ideas) with equipment, expert advice and commercial feedback to develop circular economy business ideas at a startup incubator based at the Innovation Barn.
  • Averting CO2e emissions by transforming concrete from demolition sites and powder created from discarded glass into new concrete, also creating new jobs.

“We are thrilled to implement the circular economy strategy in Charlotte,” said Marcus D. Jones, Charlotte city manager, in a statement. “The Circular Charlotte initiatives will help Charlotte address key issues impacting the entire city: economic and social mobility. We fully expect Circular Charlotte, along with the work we do, to help us become the epicenter for people and cities to learn how to experiment, create and innovate.”

The city will roll out the strategy gradually beginning with a $2 million investment into Envision Charlotte’s Innovation Barn, which will serve as a hub for local entrepreneurs and innovators to conduct groundbreaking circular economy work. Furthering its commitment to the circular economy, the city has joined The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100), a program that brings together corporations and governments to accelerate circular economy innovations.

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