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Rethinking the Circular Economy with Nature as a Guide

Is closed loop recycling an outdated concept? Learn how Biomimicry 3.8 is looking to nature for a better way to handle materials after the first use.

   Read the full story at Healthcare Packaging: Biomimicry in Packaging: 6 Points to Ponder

Transcript

You’ve probably heard of the circular economy in packaging, or at least seen the running arrows that signify it.

What if there was a better way to look at recycling though – one informed by the cycles we see in nature?

 “If we only think about ‘how can I turn a glass bottle back into a glass bottle?’ That’s not the way nature works, leaves don’t turn back into leaves… when a leaf falls in the autumn, maybe 5% of those molecules might end up back as leaves the next year, but it’s really a system of flows,” says Dr. Dayna Baumeister.

Dr. Dayna Baumeister co-founded Biomimicry 3.8, a consultancy that helps companies innovate packaging and products with cues from nature.  The group is rethinking closed loop recycling to instead focus on a connected flow of materials. 

That starts with recognizing that materials can’t necessarily be perfectly recycled back into the same object. It also means that products and packaging need to be valuable for a larger part of the ecosystem – like how natural systems co-depend on carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen in a collected flow. 

 “Flow is a noun and a verb. It also honors that the value comes when things don’t get stagnated—the value comes for the system when they stay in movement,” says Baumeister.

Waste disposal methods like landfills are antithetical to this thought process, acting as a sort of graveyard for materials.

 “All of that materiality, all that value is just stagnated into a pit in the ground. How crude of us. Especially these fancy and high-end and elegant materials, and we just stop its full potentiality. It’s mind-boggling,” says Baumester.

You can find out more about Biomimicry 3.8’s efforts to inform packaging innovation with nature at Healthcare Packaging

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