Communities around the world continue to feel the effects of climate change and other environmental crises. Increased carbon and methane emissions, poor waste and resource management, and countless other issues threaten the health, safety, and well-being of populations now and in the future. While many governments are developing legislation to address this crisis, consumers, businesses, and other organizations are taking action to safeguard the environment for generations to come.
Many business leaders recognize their power in creating positive environmental change and are taking the initiative to address some of the world’s biggest environmental problems. S&P Global’s 2021 State of Green Business Index found that 90% of major U.S. companies published a sustainability report in 2019, up from 86% in 2018 and just 20% in 2011. Fifty-eight percent of companies in 2019 publicly disclosed their carbon targets.
Shred-it helps companies that use confidential paper destruction promote sustainability and contribute to a “circular economy” model of resource use. To help business leaders better understand how they can become more sustainable, Shred-it has developed a guide to the circular economy.
What Is a Circular Economy?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a circular economy as “an economy that uses a systems-focused approach and involves industrial processes and economic activities that are restorative or regenerative by design, enables resources used in such processes and activities to maintain their highest value for as long as possible, and aim for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, and systems.” In other words, circular economies expand and optimize the lifespan of resources to reduce and ultimately eliminate waste.
A circular economy requires a change in how resources, such as trees and metals, are sourced and created into products and discarded after use. While a “linear” economic model disposes of resources after the first use, the goal of a circular economy is to transform what many think of as “waste” into another usable resource.
Why Is a Circular Economy Important?
A circular economy aims to limit waste, which can take up space in landfills and, if managed poorly, can contribute to climate change and could even harm human health. A circular economy also helps to protect limited natural resources. For example, recycling paper, an activity in a circular economy, can potentially reduce the need to harvest trees.
What Are the Benefits Of a Circular Economy?
In addition to its environmental value, a circular economy can promote innovation, boost economic growth, and create jobs. The transition to a circular economy is expected to create more than 700,000 jobs in the European Union alone.
What Are the Challenges Of Achieving a Circular Economy?
Businesses might struggle to implement circular economy initiatives for a variety of reasons. Some leaders might worry about the financial and personnel costs of reusing and recycling materials, while others might struggle to understand the applicable regulations.
Employee education can also be a challenge in adopting circular economy practices. Properly reusing and recycling resources requires support and participation from all employees. However, many people do not understand the circular economy model and its role in reducing waste. Effective circular economy practices should start with robust employee training.
How Does Shred-it Support a Circular Economy?
Shred-it is committed to contributing to a circular economy for paper resources. Shred-it recycles all paper documents it shreds, helping businesses preserve natural resources. Unlike the traditional “blue bin” document disposal method, Shred-it helps businesses achieve some of their sustainability goals without compromising data security. In 2021, Shred-it securely collected and recycled approximately 1.1 billion pounds of shredded sorted office paper, which is the equivalent of the paper that could be harvested from approximately 9 million trees.
What Does Shred-it Do With the Shredded Paper?
Paper documents disposed of with Shred-it follow a seven-step destruction and recycling process:
Employees drop their confidential documents in a secure Shred-it console. Unlike the traditional recycling disposal process, where any person in the office could view and take papers thrown away in blue bins, Shred-it consoles are locked and have a beveled slot to help prevent access to discarded documents.
On a scheduled basis, Shred-it’s team of professionals empties the consoles. The bins used in collecting and transporting secure information for destruction are molded from 100% recycled HDPE plastic.
Upon document destruction, Shred-it sends its customers a Certificate of Destruction confirming that the collected information has been shredded.
The shredded and baled paper is then sold as sorted office paper, to be used in the manufacturing of paper products.
A recycling facility subsequently turns the shredded paper into pulp by separating the paper’s fibers.
The pulp is then put through a screening process that filters out impurities and prepares it for the removal of printing ink.
Finally, the newly recycled pulp is mixed with fresh pulp to manufacture new paper products.
Recycling paper documents with Shred-it is one way organizations can help build a healthier and more sustainable world for communities now and in the future. Learn more about Shred-it’s commitment to sustainability by downloading the Shred-it Recycling Process infographic.