Transition to circular economy essential for sustainability
3 Jul, 2024


Patricia Schröder, CEO of Circular Energy NPC


As the global community faces mounting environmental challenges, the necessity to transition from a linear to circular economy has never been more critical. The severe stress on the planet due to resource requirements and overflowing landfills demand an immediate shift in how resources are being used for the manufacturing of products, their consumption and end of life management.


Patricia Schröder, CEO of Circular Energy NPC, a Producer Responsibility Organisation (PRO), emphasises, “We can no longer afford to take the planet’s resources for granted. To sustain it, we must adopt circular practices that extend the life of our products through reuse, repair, refurbishment and recycling. This approach is essential to mitigate environmental degradation and ensure a sustainable future.”


Schröder underscores the need for businesses to evaluate their entire supply chain and meet Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) regulations. “This means companies must take responsibility not just for their products, but also for their environmental impact throughout the product life cycle. This includes sourcing materials responsibly, reducing waste during production and ensuring products are designed for longevity and recyclability.


“Feedback from our South African Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and retailer members that have made these transitions, and are continually endeavouring to do more, highlights the importance and opportunity to rethink product design, manufacturing and business operations to align with circular principles.


“Companies need to ensure their products are durable, easily recyclable, and that their manufacturing processes minimise waste. It’s about a holistic system where sustainability is at the core and integrated at every stage, from supplier to producer to the end consumer,” she adds.


The concept of EPR is a cornerstone in this transition, compelling producers to take full accountability for their products. By adopting EPR, businesses are encouraged to innovate, design more sustainable products and reduce waste, ultimately fostering a more sustainable economy and future.


Key insights from Circular Energy’s members at its recent conference themed Enabling Circular Transition point to the necessity of leveraging emerging technologies, implementing robust policies and ingenuity to take a responsible role and drive the circular economy.


Furthermore, digital solutions, such as secure payment solutions for waste pickers can enhance efficiency and safety, promote broader adoption of circular practices and contribute to job creation.


Various OEMs have begun this journey, developing sustainable recycling solutions that give products a second life. Collaborative efforts between companies and organisations, such as Circular Energy’s partnership with Hirsch’s Homestores, illustrate the tangible steps that can be taken. Hirsch’s Homestores now offers a service that allows for old appliances to be dropped off at stores for responsible disposal or when they deliver a new appliance, they can assist with transporting unwanted appliances to the collection point at their stores. This is facilitated by Circular Energy’s take-back programme, which also assists consumers who require pick up of products which have reached their end of life.


Other inspirational stories of resilience accentuate the impact of the circular economy solutions on people’s lives. Founder and MD of Sbumeister Plastic Recyclers, Sbusiso Shange’s journey from waste picker to successful entrepreneur highlights the economic and environmental benefits of circular practices. His business employs 80 staff and processes a significant amount of waste, demonstrating the viability of sustainable business models and the opportunities within the circular economy.


Andile Dludla, Environmental Specialist at Mr Price Group, a member of Circular Energy NPC, says the group’s adoption of such practices include recycling of marketing materials, encouraging and working with suppliers to recycle off-cuts and waste, amongst other initiatives and collaborations. This has seen 13 000 kilograms of plastic diverted from landfills for use in the creation of tables, lampstands and baskets since 2023.


“We are also working with Circular Energy to introduce some form of e-waste take-back collection for batteries which we will be piloting soon,” he adds, highlighting the potential action businesses can take to contribute towards circular sustainability.


Schröder also remarked on the broader implications of resource depletion, stating global resources are stretched to their limit.


“We can’t continue to exploit the planet’s resources at the current pace without facing dire consequences. Adopting a circular economy as society and business is essential to maximising resource use, preventing waste, and protecting the environment from further harm.”


Transitioning to a circular economy is not merely an option, but an urgent necessity requiring businesses to innovate continuously, engage in responsible sourcing and educate consumers about the importance of sustainability.


“This transition requires a collective effort from all sectors of society. Through collective action and a commitment to sustainable practices, we can create a resilient future for our planet and generations to come,” concludes Schröder.




@Patricia Schroder, Circular Energy NPC
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