Why Imbibing Circular Economy in Startups is a Solution for a Sustainable Future

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Why Imbibing Circular Economy in Startups is a Solution for a Sustainable Future

In today’s fast-paced and resource-constrained world, the traditional linear model of “take-make-dispose” is proving to be unsustainable. The need for climate-conscious businesses has become more crucial than ever.


This article explores the importance of imbibing the principles of the circular economy in startups and presents data-driven examples to highlight its significance.


In Nigeria, while the concept of the circular economy is predominantly linked to recycling single-use plastics, it is essential to acknowledge that relying solely on plastic recycling is not a comprehensive solution to the dire consequences of excessive resource consumption, waste generation, and unsustainable practices that we face. We need to shift our focus to a more holistic and proactive approach to sustainability – imbibing a circular economy in startups.


Startups, as the engines of innovation and change, have a unique opportunity to adopt a circular economy mindset from their inception. They hold immense potential for driving sustainable innovation and disrupting traditional linear business models.


Imbibing the circular economy mindset in startups not only mitigates the arbitrary use of natural resources but also minimizes waste, saves costs, optimizes resources and processes, enhances resilience, and improves competitiveness. This approach means startups can adopt circular design thinking principles, and unlock new revenue streams while considering the entire life cycle of their products or services. 


In the early stages of a startup, it is crucial to consider waste management as an integral part of the business strategy. Focusing on the circular supply chain will enable entrepreneurs to identify potential waste streams and explore avenues to convert them into valuable resources. Let’s delve into two examples to illustrate the potential benefits of circular thinking.


Consider a logistics startup that operates a fleet of bikes. To understand the potential waste generated, let’s examine the case of tyre disposal. By extrapolating data on the number of used tyres or the frequency of tyre changes on a bike or vehicle, we can estimate the annual volume of waste tyres they would accumulate. For instance, if the startup has 5 bikes and changes tyres every quarter, they would accumulate approximately 40 used tyres annually.

To transform this waste into a resource, they can explore partnerships with individuals or businesses that repurpose used tyres. For example, artisans who create furniture from recycled materials could utilize these worn-out tyres as raw materials. This would ensure a continuous supply of used tyres between both parties and the startup would not only reduce waste but also generate additional revenue streams through selling or exchanging these tyres.


Another example pertains to startups in the food processing industry. Let’s take the case of plantain or cassava processing, where a significant portion of the product (about 10%) is typically discarded as waste, such as peels and stalks. Entrepreneurs in this sector can identify potential beneficiaries for these by-products. For instance, plantain peels can be repurposed as animal feed, while their ash can serve as a base for producing black soap.

By understanding the potential uses and markets for these waste products, entrepreneurs can establish linkages with relevant stakeholders. Collaborations with animal feed manufacturers, soap producers, or composting facilities can help divert food waste from landfills, reduce environmental impact, and generate additional income streams for the startup.


Furthermore, to facilitate the implementation of circular practices, startups must also adopt a data-driven approach. Gathering information on waste generation, potential uses, and market demands is crucial for making informed decisions. In the case of used tyres, collecting data on the number of tyres discarded annually by various sources (e.g., vehicles, bikes) can help startups estimate the overall volume of waste tyres and plan accordingly.


Similarly, analyzing food waste percentages and identifying potential applications for by-products can assist entrepreneurs in establishing fruitful collaborations and maximizing the value extracted from their operations. This way, startups can ensure that their circular initiatives are not only environmentally beneficial but also economically viable.


Embracing the principles of the circular economy is vital for startups aiming to build a sustainable future. By proactively addressing waste management and establishing circular supply chains, startups can minimize environmental impact, generate additional revenue streams, and foster sustainable relationships.


Leveraging data-driven insights can further enhance decision-making and optimize resource allocation. As startups lead the way toward a circular economy, they become drivers of change, inspiring larger organizations and promoting a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.



Contributor: Nneka Ukay


Nneka /neh·kuh/ is a dynamic professional passionate about data, business intelligence, ESG, sustainability, and climate change.


With a track record of driving results and a commitment to creating a sustainable future, Nneka Ukay is an influential force in data-driven decision-making, innovation, and social impact.

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