The concept of a circular economy has been on the fringes of market development for a while now, but a boost could come from the recent launch of the Cradle to Cradle Marketplace, the first online store to support the circular economy, selling only C2C-certified products (products in which their full life-cycle has been taken into account).
Cradle to Cradle Marketplace is a UK-based startup launched by business partners Paul Capel and Brendan Rowen, who were inspired by the work of cradle-to-cradle pioneers William McDonough and Michael Braungart (who coined the term with their groundbreaking book of the same name in 2002), as well as Dame Ellen MacArthur and her eponymous foundation, on developing a circular economy. Frustrated that many of the products he wished to buy didn’t meet his environmental and ethical standards, Capel decided to set up his own store containing truly sustainable products.
“I knew there were companies out there making good stuff but I was frustrated that there wasn’t an easy way to buy these things,” Capel recently told The Guardian.
The new store has the approval of MBDC, the company set up by McDonough and Braungart to provide C2C certification of products. C2C-certified products have to go through a range of meticulous tests on material health (making sure it has no detrimental impact on people or the environment), material reuse, renewable energy use and carbon management, sustainable water demand and social fairness.
Although a range of companies sell a selection of C2C-certified goods, Cradle to Cradle Marketplace is the first to dedicate its inventory to these certified products exclusively.
“It was the unavailability of products at a customer level that motivated me to set up the C2C Marketplace,” Capel said. “There are lots of everyday items that are C2C certified, like towels, bathroom tiles, clothes, even toilet paper, but until now it has been difficult for customers to even know about these products, let alone buy them.
“That’s why we are setting up a hub where the public can access these products and learn about what makes them special. We are starting by asking people to register on our website as C2C Marketplace ‘pioneers.’ The pioneers will be the first people to have access to products and will be the first to hear about special offers and new developments.”
Capel said he thinks the use of C2C-certified products is the best way to support a circular economy as all ingredients have been tested to ensure they are safe to go back into the materials cycle.
As Jules Clarysse’s director, Peter Bauwens, told the Guardian: “When thread is cotton polyester you can’t put it back in the biological cycle. So we developed threads that are 100 percent cotton and inks that are C2C-certified. That means the whole towel is 100 percent compliant to the biological cycle.”
Many so-called “eco-friendly” products still use dyes and pigments that are environmentally damaging. Jules Clarysse saw the opportunity to distinguish itself by developing a range of vibrant, non-toxic dyes. Combined with its 100 percent cotton make-up, which is biodegradable, this makes the towels compostable, though its producers would like to encourage the materials’ reuse.
“Cotton is a renewable material. You can produce it every year in the same field. But production of cotton uses a lot of water. With C2C towels you can enormously decrease the impact of cotton production on the environment. That’s why it is so important,” said Bauwens.
C2C Marketplace is soon hoping to sell a range of clothing provided by German manufacturer Trigema, ceramic tiles by Mosa and Method cleaning products. From there, it hopes to incorporate a range of “C2C-inspired products”— whose companies cannot afford to go through the rigorous C2C certification process but are making their products from C2C-certified materials.
The benefits of a circular economy is gaining more visibility across the globe: The World Economic Forum released a report this year, working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, that claims over US$1 trillion a year could be generated for the global economy by 2025 if companies shifted to circular supply chains that reuse and recycle materials. Back in March, Arizona State University teamed up with the Dutch municipality of Haarlemmermeer to develop the world’s first regional plan for development of a circular economy. Since then, such plans have been promoted elsewhere, with the UK Environmental Audit Committee releasing a report earlier this month, with suggestions to the UK government for policy changes that would encourage businesses to adopt circular economic models.