Khuất Thảo Nguyên
Circular Economy models case study series - Better Future Factory
The term circular economy (CE) is described as "an economic system where economic, social, and environmental values are important in every part of the system" (Reike et al., 2018). It uses resource conservation, reuse of products and materials, and recycling as its foundation. Economic values focus more on the financial components of CE, such as cost reduction and revenue generation, while environmental values pertain to greening processes and goods by reducing footprints and achieving a green corporate image (Krikke, 2021). Because of this, CE benefits manufacturers, but the adoption of a CE by customers determines its success. In fact, CE necessitates close cooperation between buyers and suppliers in (global) supply chains (Kaur and Singh, 2019).
The circular economy (CE) model, which provides an alternative to the conventional linear business model, consists of a strategy that lessens the adverse effects on the environment. In this model, value is created at the final product's production stage and reaches its peak with consumption. Increased product lifespan, production of things with a lengthy life cycle, and a concentration on services rather than products are some of the goals of the CE.
Given this context, we obtained best practices and business cases that adhere to the CE model's guiding principles:
Preserve and improve natural capital
Optimize the use of resources
Promote the effectiveness of the system
Our first case studies chosen for the CE model in the industrial sector is Better Future Factory, which sells designer goods made from recycled waste. This dispels any concerns that CE will merely serve as a "add on" to the business plan by showing that it can actually serve as a company's raison d'être. As a result, CE is fundamental to the organizational DNA and business strategy.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2013
Found in 2013, Better Future Factory' business aim to assist clients in coming up with innovative methods for turning waste streams, particularly plastic waste streams, into worthwhile and scalable products. In addition, the business launches its own initiatives, some of which develop into standalone start-ups focused on a single good or service. During its business, the company mainly focus on continuously innovating products with recycle material development, especially plastics.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2013
Plastics are mostly designed for one life cycle and reuse or recycling are not taken into account. At the same time plastic is a special material, which has a lot of properties other materials can’t match. Therefore, it deserves much more value than just the lifetime like a disposable packaging and being incinerated afterwards. The company believes in reimagining existing goods and procedures to create iconic, long-lasting, and scalable solutions. A cleaner and brighter future can be built with the help of captivating stories and cutting-edge innovation.
Motivation and leadership
The Perpetual Plastic Project was one of the first initiatives that served as a sort of Kickstarter for Better Future Factory. It is the first mobile interactive recycling machine in the world that allows users to create 3D printed objects from their own plastic waste. Beer cups were originally meant to be 3D printed for a Dutch music festival, but the company soon received numerous requests from both domestic and foreign parties. With this device, the company travels the world conducting workshops at a variety of events, from maker fairs in Dubai to sustainability events hosted by Heineken and Danone.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2014
The installation's effectiveness in spreading awareness of plastic recycling led to the sale of replicas of the device to colleges and universities. This device also served as a tool for client acquisition for new client assignments including plastic recycling. The Perpetual Plastic project was started by one person and developed into a sort of event business, still holding three to four events each month and having 10 copies of the installation in various locations across the world.
Presently, Better Future Factory is working on numerous projects including the recycling of plastic for customers. Refill is the second startup that converts plastic trash into premium 3D printing filament (the raw material used in 3D printers), making it the industrialized counterpart of Perpetual Plastic. It has been on the market for three years and sells internationally through distributors and its website store. Better Future Factory aspires to achieve business development enabling independence by concentrating more on the creation of creative and scalable solutions than on managing businesses.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2015
The shared goal of Better Future Factory's start-ups is to spread awareness of the importance of plastic recycling and its many advantages. The goals are different for each business unit.
Better Future Factory – sustainable product design and engineering: Scale is crucial for change, but communication is also crucial for impact. Better Future Factory's major goal is to assist organizations in innovating by turning their plastic waste streams into products. Since most people find sustainability and the circular economy to be fairly abstract concepts, the emphasis is placed on concrete, understandable solutions. The startup experience offers insightful information on market dynamics and expanding enterprises.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2018
TPerpetual Plastic – A mobile, interactive recycling installation: By turning waste into a 3D-printed item like a ring, going from trash to jewelry, this company hopes to raise awareness about the importance of plastic recycling. Recently, a lesson plan centered on the Perpetual Plastic Project was created for children between the ages of 10 and 14. This encourages children to be excited about the potential of recycling plastic, sparks their imagination, and involves them in the issues of the future. They then instruct their parents in turn.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2018
Refill – Selling recycled 3d printing filament around the world: This is the first high-quality recycled 3D printing filament in the world, and it can be purchased online or through resellers anywhere in the world. This makes a sustainable substitute available to those who own 3D printers. The portfolio provides various plastics from various waste sources, including PLA from packaging, ABS from car dashboards, HIPS from refrigerators, and PET from plastic bottles. The company's goal is to dominate the recycled filament market by providing a wide range of materials, colors, and expert guidance on how to use the material best.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2019
New Marble – Selling Marble looking wall tiles made from plastic bottles: The method was originally created as a low-tech remedy for underdeveloped nations. It is currently also being further developed for large-scale manufacture in the Netherlands as a result of favorable feedback in the Dutch market. In the Netherlands, the product is currently an officially recognized building material, and production methods have been improved. Beginning in 2019, following an investment round, a pilot factory with a monthly production capacity of around 3000 m2 (30 tones of PET) is planned. Following a fruitful trial phase, additional production sites are anticipated.
Contribution to company performance
More and more businesses are contacting Better Future Factory for innovative ideas because to their expertise in plastic recycling and current array of practical solutions. Additionally, the clients' sustainability objectives are boosted by the combination of practical solutions and storytelling. The first production series of products, including coffee trays made from recycled packaging and lighting manufactured from PET bottles, are currently being produced as a successful outcome of various initiatives.
The team's experience in plastic recycling is being sought after in addition to the Waste to Product projects for instructive and inspirational speeches, focus groups, and expert sessions. The objective is to establish Better Future Factory as Europe's leading recycled plastic product design firm. Better Future Factory has already received numerous awards and been featured in numerous publications.
There are various effect levels among the start-ups. The Perpetual Plastic exhibit has performed at more than a hundred corporate events for companies like Philips, Heineken, PWC, Corona, and Unilever while travelling through more than 20 countries. It has been discussed in numerous scholarly publications and on television programmes. A reach of approximately 250,000 individuals is anticipated.
Social and environmental impact
The iconic start is one of the numerous initiatives that Better Future Factory has undertaken with the goal of making items that convey to consumers the importance of plastic recycling and the circular economy. Internally, these recognizable items would move from the sales and engineering departments to the marketing department. It served as a good talking point and practical illustration of the circular economy. This product turned out to be the foundation for a number of additional items. The impact is still only a small number of metric tones per year, but it is rising every year.
The programme also reveals to be particularly intriguing in terms of its educational content: through learning by doing, people actually become aware of both the issue and the potential remedies that can be used as a result of recent technological advancements. In the Netherlands, a brand-new Perpetual Plastic lesson plan will be introduced for elementary and high school pupils in September.
Refill has been in business for almost 2.5 years, and sales are on the rise. almost 10,000 spools of filament have been sold. In place of the traditional plastic spools used to transport filament, Refill has created its own distinctive cardboard spools that are considerably easier to recycle. In addition, all sourcing and manufacture are carried out within a 150 kilometer range. Social entrepreneurs assist with packaging and cardboard spool assembly. Refill is currently turning food boxes, pet bottles, refrigerators, and dashboards from cars into filament. However, there are a lot more intriguing waste materials that may be turned into filament for 3D printers.
Source: Better Future Factory, 2019