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Brain circuits

Sustainability dilemma: Reuse or recycle?

Published 9 February 2022 in Brain circuits • 2 min read

We all need to be moving towards sustainability, but this means many dilemmas must be considered. Some of the questions we need to be asking may go unnoticed. Reuse versus recycling is a good example.

Both options sound good from an environmental standpoint, but each raises issues that need to be weighed up, especially at the organizational level. Both business and governments have focused heavily on recycling for far longer than reuse, but this can foster a status quo that is difficult to change as we try to progress to more circular economic models.

The purpose of recycling organizations is to recycle as much as possible. This can conflict with the next best step in the circular economy: reuse before recycling. If reuse increases substantially, it could mean a drop in recycling, and that might threaten the economic sustainability of some recycling organizations. 

Another problem with reuse is that it often requires a new business model, and a full company and ecosystem transformation. What would that transformation look like? Read more in the second part of this series.

Further reading: 

Reuse or recycle? Designing a business model for the circular economy by Carlos Cordon and Edwin Wellan

Authors

Supply chain

Carlos Cordon

Professor of Strategy and Supply Chain Management

Carlos Cordon is a Professor of Strategy and Supply Chain Management. Professor Cordon’s areas of interest are digital value chains, supply and demand chain management, digital lean and process management.

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