Circular Economy programs seek to cut down on waste and create jobs

Circular Economy programs seek to cut down on waste and create jobs.

In a meeting with a farmer from the area about two years ago, Eric Diamond of Central Kitchen Central Kitchen, a food business incubator located in Cleveland, Ohio, learned that the farmer was unable to market all of the carrots that were in his fields.

Certain carrots – though healthy and delicious – weren’t in the right shape or size to meet grocery stores’ or restaurant’s specifications. This led to a discussion and a business concept was created.

“I told him, ‘What would you do with your carrots?’ He told me, ‘We just leave them to be rotting in the fields because there isn’t an end-to-end market for them,'” said Diamond. “So I suggested,”What if I bought those that don’t meet your requirements, and then make them into a product and sell the districts in schools?”

The farmers at Wayward Seed Farm in Fremont, Ohio, began collecting the carrots that could have otherwise been to be thrown away and dropping the carrots on the Central Kitchen. They transformed the carrots into 5 pound bags and then sold them for school districts.

Recently, with the aid of a grant of $30,000 by Circular Cleveland, Central Kitchen purchased a commercial grade food processor known as the Robot Coupe which allows them to process carrots more quickly.

“We were able to employ five people using knives chopping up carrots before dropping them into bags,” Diamond said. Diamond. “We could not do 1,500 pounds in an 8-hour shift. Now, we can lift 1,500 pounds in just a few hours and without calluses.”

Leaders from the civic and business world in Cleveland such as Diamond are exploring a new concept known as”the “circular economy” which is based on the reuse of materials to create new products instead of discarding them – to create companies and jobs, cut down on pollution, and help improve the quality of life for all.

This would be a welcome benefit for Cleveland as it is one of the cities with the lowest income in the nation, having the poverty rate at 29.3 percent in 2021, in accordance with The U.S. Census. As per the International Labor Organization, the circular economy can lead to an increase of 6 million jobs worldwide by 2030.

Focusing on economic growth

To assist Cleveland develop the circular economy of Cleveland, in the last year, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation awarded the city with a grant of $476,000.

Over the last 2 years Circular Cleveland, a collaboration between the city and the non-profit Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, has recruited neighborhood ambassadors to help promote the project, awarded community grants to assist residents to reuse their homes, such as composting, as well as hired consultants to develop an economic circularity plan for the city.

While it’s still too early to know what the results on Circular Cleveland could be, however, it’s already beginning to create certain economic activities. Alumni and students from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland recently took home the pitch contest held by the manufacturing company MAGNET for their start-up, CLEANR, which has created a system to remove microplastics from water that flows from washing machines.

Cleveland Sews, a sewing firm that operates from an old warehouse that has been renovated located on the east side of Cleveland and is working in partnership with Cleveland Cavaliers and the NFL to transform old banners into handbags , with the aid of a $3000 Circular Cleveland grant.

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“What I’ve learned is that the potential is more extensive. Being able to work with both players from the NFL as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers in the creation of products has helped me see this,” said owner Sharie Renee. She is currently developing a sustainable line of bags and other items.

“Changing our processes to be less wasteful and have a regenerative quality can make the communities stronger, and revive the natural systems that surround us,” said Sarah O’Keeffe who is the sustainability director for Cleveland’s city. Cleveland. “That will benefit all of us in our communities.”

Changes in policy can reduce the production of waste.

While community-led initiatives such as Circular Cleveland can be helpful, experts suggest that changes to national and state policy are required to shift our economy away from a take-make-waste model to one that is more sustainable.

Certain states have passed extended producer liability (EPR) law that holds producers accountable for the consequences that happen with their goods. For instance, California recently passed an EPR law that, after 2032, will prohibit packaging that can’t be composted or recycled. Oregon, Maine, and Colorado have similar laws and more than dozen states are looking into EPR legislation.

“The types of frameworks and policies that we require to promote circular business models aren’t yet in place within the U.S.,” said John Holm, director of strategic initiatives at Pyxera Global, a nonprofit organization that played a role in the creation of Cleveland’s circular economy plan.

“So the only thing you’ve got is a plethora of one-offs all over the world. The concept is still in its early stages and to say otherwise is a falsehood. What I can say is that businesses are paying attention.”

Roadmap for recovery

The latest Circular Cleveland plan highlights four areas that allow the city to concentrate on circular manufacturing, addressing pollution and circular built environment (deconstructing as well as recycling older structures) as well as gaining greater value out of the resources available (including the composting of food waste).

In the last few years, Circular Cleveland has provided grants of $100,000 to companies who belong to the circular economy to grow their business, according to Divya Sridhar who is the climate resilience and sustainability manager for Cleveland Neighborhood Progress.

One of these initiatives is a pilot composting program that is being implemented at the West Side Market, a public market in downtown. Cleveland has not yet implemented any citywide composting programs which means that unless residents and businesses compost by themselves, the majority of the food waste that is generated in the city goes to the garbage dumps.

Based on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 30-40 percent of food production is wasted. This is a major contributor to the climate crisis due to its substantial carbon dioxide (GHG) presence.

In January, York will be investing $60,000 in bringing composting into the market. Its composting firm Rust Belt Riders will conduct an audit of waste, create the composting pilot and research how it can be extended and improved to other areas in the town.

Rust Belt Riders is also cooperating with Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland to find fresh, usable food items that could be diverted to food pantries and hunger centers. pantries via the application Food Rescue Hero.

“We’re striving to make sure that every item sold in the West Side Market goes to the best and most efficient utilization,” said Daniel Brown who is co-founder of Rust Belt Riders and Tilth Soil, which makes soil using local compost.

Circular Cleveland also awarded $30,000 to a sustainable consulting company, Venture Forward Strategies, to assist small and medium-sized companies divert waste from the waste stream. Also, Circular Cleveland hosts twice-a-month fix-it clinics that help people repair household appliances like furniture, vacuum cleaners, and clothes.

All around the Great Lakes

In addition to New York, another Great Lakes state, also considering the possibility of an EPR law Mark Fisher, executive director of the Council of the Great Lakes Region believes that other states will adopt these laws over the next few years.

“Most of Canada is moving to an expanded producer liability model” stated Fisher and is located in Ontario. “[Canada Is about a year or two ahead of where we are seeing discussions in the U.S. in the Great Lakes region.”

At present, there aren’t any EPR legislation being debated at the moment by Ohio, Illinois, or Michigan state legislatures. Michigan has a long-standing bottle deposit law that offers consumers 10 cents for each bottle they recycle .

The E-Cycle program in Wisconsin recovers millions of tons of technology waste each year. While state legislatures debate these bills certain companies aren’t waiting for the right time to implement circular economy strategies into action.

Circular Economy programs seek to cut down on waste and create jobs

The Chicago-based software firm Rheaply recently purchased Rheaply, based in Chicago, recently acquired the Materials Marketplace, a free online platform that allows businesses as well as organizations to purchase and sell byproducts and waste materials.

Construction is one of the largest pollutants and the most wasteful accounting for 40 percent of global emissions and almost 20 percent of the waste found generated in U.S. landfills, according to Rheaply. As of now, the platform, which is in operation throughout Ohio, Michigan, Ontario, Tennessee, Washington, and Austin, Texas, has removed 9200 tons of waste out of landfills.

“There are substantial savings in taking a step back and not sending something to the garbage dump” stated Garr Punnett Chief Impact Officer at Rheaply. “Something you offer for free might be useful to a different organization.”

For instance, Punnett cited a Michigan-based manufacturing firm that produces around 1070-pound bags of sawdust per day. Recently, they posted the product on the market. If they can market it for sale, he claimed that they’ll save $1000 per month on landfill costs.

Grants from government programs as well as other technical assistance to businesses can boost the development of this circular economic model, say experts. Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) created NextCycle Michigan two years ago in order to grant grants to businesses that are in the circular economy.

The aim of NextCycle is to raise Michigan’s recycling rate up to at least 45% (in the year 2019 it was 18 percent, while in 2018 it was a little higher at 19.3 percent). This month, EGLE gave more than $2.5 million of grants for recycle, reuse, as well as renewable energy projects.

This year’s grantees are Glacier which is a company based in San Francisco that received $367,700 to demonstrate robot sorters in the recycling plant located in Oakland County, Michigan, and the Detroit-based Industrial Sewing and Innovation Center (ISAIC) which was awarded $166,000 to turn the textile scrap into felted fabrics and develop plans for the business of scaling it across Michigan.

Rebecca Hu, co-founder of Glacier, has said that her company employs robotics and artificial intelligence to make recycling more accessible to communities, and to create jobs with high-skills in recycling facilities. “Early stage companies are always an opportunity, but by being supported by EGLE and EGLE, we are able to eliminate the risk of expanding,” she said.

Jennifer Guarino, CEO of ISAIC The EGLE funds is to buy equipment that will allow her company to turn clothing that has been thrown away into new items. The group, present in nine states, has a manufacturing facility of 12,000 square feet located in Detroit where they’ve provided 45 participants with their industrial sewing course. In the last year, they have added 10 new jobs, each with the equivalent of $15 an hour.

Matt Fletcher, recycling market development specialist at EGLE The company said NextCycle is designed to create jobs for those who require these jobs. “This fits in with our vision of creating a more diverse workforce as well as creating employment opportunities, especially in cities such as Pontiac, Detroit, Benton Harbor as well as Flint,” he said. “We do not want to establish the new way of managing waste that is abandoning people.”


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