The circular economy is a new way of doing business that can create the ultimate win-win: a healthier environment and new economic opportunities. As with any challenge to the status quo, change can take time, often needs to start small and requires collaboration to have lasting impact. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation and the private sector have demonstrated how collaborating in innovative ways to recycle and recover materials can lead to major resource efficiencies.

Partnering for success

The circular economy is a $4.5 trillion opportunity. Unlocking this economic growth often starts with small-scale projects to prove the model before building up. For example, the Dow Chemical Co. and Republic Services collaborated with the City of Citrus Heights, the Flexible Packaging Association, Agilyx and Reynolds Consumer Products to collect previously non-recycled plastic waste from people’s homes and turn it into fuel. In this three-month pilot program, the partnership produced 512 gallons of synthetic crude oil from 6,000 pounds of typically non-recycled items. By starting local and engaging the right partners, Dow and Republic Services are making the circular economy a reality.

The circular economy requires a new way of doing business and new collaboration.

Another example of impactful collaboration is MGM Resorts International’s work with the Las Vegas-based Three Square Food Bank to provide families in need with food that would have otherwise gone to waste. The two organizations collaborated to overcome food regulation challenges and developed innovative flash-freezing techniques to keep banquet food fresh. MGM’s first pilot at the Aria Resort saw more than 100,000 pounds of food donated over the course of a year. MGM is now expanding this program to more of its properties. Working locally and collaborating with partners allowed MGM to use available resources to feed those in need.

“Beyond 34”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation is following a similar recipe in its “Beyond 34” recycling project. The goal of “Beyond 34” is to get the United States beyond its current 34 percent recycling rate. We too are starting with a local pilot and will scale up to other regions, taking with us the lessons we learn.

We could not make this change alone. We have corporate supporters — Dow, Republic Services, Target, Walgreens Boots Alliance and Walmart Foundation — as well as local partners at the Orlando Regional Chamber of Commerce and the City of Orlando that are helping the pilot program succeed. In 2018, we will launch projects in the Orlando region that involve local stakeholders collaborating in innovative ways to increase the local recycling rate. Through this approach, we are rolling out our efforts to get beyond 34 percent.

The circular economy requires a new way of doing business and new collaboration. Efforts may start small, but the circular economy model, especially when applied through partnerships, can lead to major beneficial outcomes in terms of materials recovered, money saved, and communities strengthened.