What Role does Procurement Have in a Zero Waste Future?

Imagine a future where our purchases strengthen the economy, foster social benefit, and create zero waste. The concept of procurement as a driver towards a circular world was top of mind for us as we attended the 2022 National Zero Waste Conference, hosted by the Metro Vancouver Zero Waste Council. We were inspired by many of the speakers and panelists forging a path towards circularity through a common language of describing waste as a resource. We learned about innovative efforts to close the loop by re-integrating waste back into the manufacturing of new products or by giving products a second life. Below are three of our key takeaways from the conference, and our reflections on how sustainable procurement is enabling a zero-waste future.

 

 

1. Reimagining waste as a resource through innovation

There is unlimited potential for our every-day products to be transformed and kept in circulation in the economy as useful items. Felix Bock, the founder of ChopValue, took this seriously and built a multi-million-dollar Vancouver-based business out of simply collecting used chopsticks and manufacturing them into beautiful artwork, games, office furniture and kitchen accessories. Deriving tangible value from a material that otherwise would have ended up in a landfill contributes to the circular economy, as well as allowing collaboration and integration between businesses as a source of common innovation.

 

2. Battery Recycling as a Solution to Controversy around EVs

Many folks feel conflicted about procuring EVs for their corporate or municipal fleets due to the difficult of recycling and safely disposing of the battery systems in the vehicles at end-of-life. Sumreen Rattan, the co-founder and COO of Moment Energy, share how their Vancouver-based company is providing a solution by repurposing retired electric vehicle batteries. Innovative services like Moment Energy exist in the global marketplace to support change-making in the automotive industry, to provide a second life to EV batteries.

 

3. Supporting local suppliers

More often than not, you need look no further than down the street to find a supplier that can meet and exceed your needs. Procuring local contributes not only to your city’s economic development but fosters innovation in the local marketplace IF sustainable considerations are a key aspect of the procurement. Adam Corneil is the CEO of Unbuilders, a Vancouver-based building de-construction company that dismantles buildings step-by-step so every material possible can be reused. He spoke to the untapped potential of building demolition and deconstruction practices in achieving our zero waste targets. In Metro Vancouver alone, construction-related waste accounts for over 30% of the regions’ waste.

 

The Metro Vancouver 2022 Zero Waste Conference showed the variety and wealth of circular innovation happening right here in Canada. As we often tell our clients, it now falls to us as organizations and businesses to ensure our procurement power is used to advance a circular economy.