The concept of a circular economy is not new – in fact, the linear economy characterised by taking, make and dispose of has only existed since the industrial revolution in any particularly meaningful way. In previous eras, very little was thrown away, as nearly everything had an alternative use at the end of its life, even if only for compost. Building materials are a case in point; many old buildings are constructed from stone from demolished buildings, and some old timbered properties are held up by old ships timbers.

So why don’t we still do this everywhere? The real truth is that it’s far more convenient and sometimes cheaper to manufacture products from virgin material, and nearly always the quality is more consistent. Many older people, who remember rationing during and after the Second World War, are appalled by the amount of waste created by the current generation, being brought up to mend, remake and make do. So is it possible to reverse this trend?

The Circular Economy (Diagram)

GreenBlue Urban has always been committed to the circular economy principle – and it is far wider than just product manufacture. A circular economy is actually a wide economic system that works to challenge global issues such as waste and pollution, but also climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution – both air and water. In setting such massive goals, the circular economy needs a huge shift in thinking, by all of us.

In addition to the issues that the circular economy seeks to tackle, as above, it is designed to actually benefit not only the environment but to bring prosperity to business and to society. It is regenerative by design, meaning that natural resources do not become so quickly depleted, and therefore new industries came to arise, bringing healthy economic growth.

Planting trees is a perfect example of a circular economy, as the tree provides multiple benefits during its life, and can be used to manufacture products when it is cut down. Removal of a plantation tree results in space left for new tree planting, bringing employment to often rural areas. But what about urban trees?

RootSpace manufacturing at GBU HQ, Northpoint, Bodiam

Urban trees also form part of a circular economy – but to maximise the benefits, these need to be properly planted, and grow to maturity. This is the raison d’être of GreenBlue Urban – assisting trees in their struggle to survive in a hostile environment. Whether it is providing soil support by using RootSpace soil cells, guiding tree roots with products from the ReRoot root management range, bringing air and water to the rooting zone with RootRain irrigation and aeration solutions or physically protecting the tree from above ground damage with tree grilles and guards.

The GreenBlue Urban innovative solutions enable trees to grow to their species potential longevity. All the below-ground products are manufactured from 100% recycled materials and are recyclable up to 5 times once they have finished their life. This is central to the GreenBlue Urban philosophy, as our vision is to bring environmental benefits to communities around the world, and the least possible carbon footprint.

In 2018, a number of organisations including the Ellen MacArthur Foundation launched the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE). This program seeks to scale up current initiatives to build a global circular economy by developing financial models allowing better public/private partnerships to get more involved and to encourage better policy frameworks to tackle barriers and challenges to the closed-loop cycle – minimising waste and pollution. Many companies globally have joined the coalition, and the results are encouraging.

RootSpace Ocean – Manufactured from recycled ocean debris.

The UK has been supportive of these initiatives, and a British Standard (BS 8001:2017 -Framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organisations) has been launched to align the vision of the Circular Economy with established business routines at the organisational level. Setting out the principles, and outlining management frameworks for implementation. It is considered to help write strategies that make way for a more sustainable global economy, although details of monitoring and governance are still being worked out.

The New London Plan, which came into law in March 2021, is insisting that on all developments of more than 150 residential units, buildings over 30m in height or commercial premises over 2500m², a Circular Economy Statement must be submitted, along with a Whole Life Carbon Assessment as part of the planning process. This aims to reduce waste and pollution, and in time, will help achieve the net-zero carbon commitments. It is suggested that circular economy strategies could deliver emissions reductions that could limit the expected temperature rise by half – an incredible benefit.

Edinburgh St. James (Photo: Optimised Environments)

The circular economy has been described as not just a change in the way we operate, but a new way of thinking. GreenBlue Urban are proud of our story, and how we have achieved so much in canopy cover improvement in our urban areas around the world. With hundreds of thousands of trees supported by GreenBlue Urban solutions, we look forward to hearing of your projects where your trees will continue to thrive to bring us the needed benefits to our climate, air and water, biodiversity and quality of life for all.