Transcript: What is the Circular Economy and Key Principles with Rebecca Kimber
SEE THE SHOW NOTES AND LISTEN AT: What is the Circular Economy and Key Principles with Rebecca Kimber
Katie Whalen [00:00:00] Welcome back to the Getting in the Loop Podcast. I'm Katie. My guest today is Rebecca Kimber, who writes about Circular economy products, clean living and holistic health on Earth. Bikram. She believes products should be better for us, the planet and the economy, and on her Web site, she shares her own journey of using simple swaps to reduce her eco impact while also exploring systemic change. This episode is a little different from our normal getting in the loop episodes because we actually recorded it for Rebecca to use on her Web site and podcast. But I still wanted to share it with you because I think you'll get a lot out of it and find it really interesting. So here's how it will work. After a short introduction with Rebecca so that you can get to know her a little bit more, we'll segue into the episode that she recorded where she actually interviews me for a change about Circular economy. Rebecca is such a great host and we dove into Circular economy basics or C one to one, as Rebecca calls it, and you'll hear how we were drawn to Circular economy in the first place and what continues to get us excited about it. Since we're not diving into technicalities, which we often do here on the Getting in the Loop Podcast, this would be a good episode to share with your friends, family or colleagues. So those people who are perplexed, perplexed by Circular economy don't really know what it is or maybe you're trying to explain it to them. You can share this one with them and maybe it will help. As always, you can find links to items mentioned in this podcast at getting in the loop podcast dot com. Now on today's show.
[00:01:43] Hi, Rebecca. Thanks so much for being on the Getting in the Loop Podcast.
Rebecca Kimber [00:01:47] Hi, Katie. Thanks so much for having me.
Katie Whalen [00:01:50] Well, I'm excited to have this sort of episode because it's gonna be like the first time that we're doing sort of like playing an interview where I was a guest. Like on another person's podcast, but then on my podcast. So I wanted to, of course, I'll play that. But of course, I wanted to get a little bit-- you have the listeners know a little about who is behind the first and kind of asking a lot of the questions in the interview and it's you. So before we kind of get into this episode, maybe I could just give a little bit about yourself and share a little bit about yourself and your background.
Rebecca Kimber [00:02:27] Great. Okay. Yeah. My name is Rebecca Kimber and I am a blogger and I write about Circular economy products and services and clean living. So it's really just a blog for conscious consumers who care about products that are better for the environment and for their own health.
[00:02:47] And so I started-- The blog, really started off as more clean living and environmental issues and integrate environmental solutions. And now it's turned into more where I am really starting to focus on Circular economy because that's really where I feel like this is the future of environmentalism and really something that just has so much value for companies. So it's great for the environment and the concepts are great for the environment, just the idea behind it as well as it's great for the economy. And I feel like those are the two things that really need to merge for there to be really an environmental movement that people, companies, governments that everybody can sort of get behind. So that's the thing. I'm really trying to spread the word about it in the United States.
[00:03:39] And as for me personally, I am a mom of two kids. And my background is I have a degree in Journalism, but my background is really in marketing, online marketing in particular.
[00:03:52] And I live in San Jose and I'm kind of a typical suburban mom. I do all the typical things. And I am in no way, shape or form sort of an extreme environmentalist. I wish that I could take more of these practices into our life. I'm always working on different things that we can do to reduce waste and pollution and things like that. But really, I feel like I'm kind of your typical, typical person trying to figure it out. And so that's a lot of what I write about. Just kind of how can we all-- How can I-- If I can do it, you can do it. And you know, if you can do it, I can do it. So how do we do this and how can we accelerate the Circular economy movement? So that's a little bit about me.
Katie Whalen [00:04:38] Yeah, I love it. And I love when we first had the idea to kind of do this this interview, how we sort of framed it in terms of Circular Economy 101 because your blog readers and podcast listeners, they're just kind of starting their circular journey. And a lot of the Getting in the Loop listeners are-- They're working in the area of Circular Economy or they've been studying it for a while. So they know they know usually they know quite a lot about it.
Katie Whalen [00:05:12] But I also realized like I never kind of did a circular economy 101 episode when I started the podcast. And I've gotten some requests for it as well. So I thought like this would be a perfect kind of combination to just go through a little bit of the basics and to just talk a little bit about more like what is circular economy and share yet to talk about it in terms of just some general ideas, maybe even from the perspective of someone who doesn't know so much about it. So I thought it was perfect to have, yeah, that you invited me on your podcast and then also to share the episode that we did for yours on the Getting in the Loop as well.
Rebecca Kimber [00:05:55] Yeah, it's awesome. I so appreciate it. I've learned so much from you from your podcast as well as from from, you know, just listening to other things that you've done and and being on your website and all of those things. You're really you're doing a lot to, I think, to accelerate the movement. I think that we need just a lot of conversations about this. So thank you for all of the good stuff that you do.
Katie Whalen [00:06:19] Oh, thank you. And thanks, Rebecca. I enjoy reading your article, so I highly recommend. I'll put the link in the show notes. So I highly recommend that listeners check out Rebecca's website as well, because there's some really nice, easily readable articles that you do about circular economy.
Rebecca Kimber [00:06:41] Thanks, yeah, it's-- I'm always trying to find different things that are applicable to sort of your everyday, everyday person.
Katie Whalen [00:06:48] Excellent. And before we go into the episode, I'm just a little bit curious because we had episode 25. We had Kate Daly of Closed Loop Partners talking a little bit about Circular economy in the United States. So since you're you know, you're based out of the US and California, could you just tell us, like what kind of what's the attitude towards Circular economy? Is this something that's being talked about or is it sort of something that you have to fairly like introduce people to?
Rebecca Kimber [00:07:20] Yeah, it's a great question. And that's really and I love that episode that you had with with Kate Daly. Right. Is that her name? Yeah, that was great. And really, you hit on-- she hit on. I think something was that was my thought as well. But I it's great to hear someone else say it, which is basically just that people are here in the United States, I would say are more focused on zero waste and in recycling and those kinds of things.
[00:07:46] And there's very, very little conversation about circular economy. And I I it's sort of the conversation that I have the most and a lot with people who are like, well, what do you do? And I'm like, I'm a blogger and I'm like, oh, what do you do?
[00:08:02] And I say, you know, I write about Circular economy. And there's a lot of the time there's kind of this like weird moment of, huh, well, you know, the person's like, should I ask what that is? So that I usually kind of try to go into it and explain it. And so people the the response that I get from people and I don't know if they're just being nice to me is that people are like, oh, that's really cool.
[00:08:28] Like, why haven't I heard more about this? I mean, I hear that almost all almost every time. Like, why aren't we talking about this more? Why haven't I heard this in mainstream media? Why? You know, it's really just not a term that we're using here.
[00:08:42] And I do feel like people are in in what people who are really interested in sustainability. I feel like they are familiar. You know, they're familiar with the concepts like reuse, renting, you know, recycling, refurbishing, you know, to some extent. But I don't it's not a term that we're using here. And so I really feel like if I feel like the word the circular, the word circular economy is so good, because I also feel like the part of this problem is that in the United States, at least, there's this attitude that if you're an environmentalist, then you don't care about the economy, that you're willing to sort of destroy the economy in the name of environmental protections. And, you know, I'm so pro environmental protections, but I also am not but I'm not pro destroying the economy. So I don't feel like I feel like there has to be a way that the two can merge and where we can protect the environment and also have a thriving economy. Maybe not to have exponential growth, but a thriving economy that really works for everybody, that works for businesses that businesses can get behind and that people can get behind because people want products. You know, that's just kind of the world that we live in. Everybody needs a new sweater or, you know, they need a whatever. They need a water bottle or whatever it is. Right. We're always going to need we're always going to need a product. We're not going to walk around naked. So, you know, there's there's that part of it. And so I feel like circular economy. I think people really like it because they're like, oh, this could be good for the economy. And just like we've talked about before is that, gee, you know, companies, they don't want to when there's value in something, why make it into waste? Right. Like it shouldn't be wasted. It should be considered value. So anyway, that I think that that's the thing.
[00:10:37] So people I think the ones people hear about it, they're really excited about it. But it's not a term that's really used in the United States enough, in my opinion.
Katie Whalen [00:10:46] Yeah, well, we dove into that a little bit in the episode as well. So you can. Listeners can stay tuned to to hear a little bit about that.
[00:10:55] But before we go into the episode, we're kind of gonna do some things in reverse here because I want to know what event you would create for the in the loop games. Normally you listen to the podcast. So you know that this usually comes at the end. But since you're gonna kind of go into the the episode, I thought we would do it now.
Rebecca Kimber [00:11:16] Okay.
Katie Whalen [00:11:17] Yeah. So In the Loop is a serious game that I created to engage people and the idea of circular economy and rethink how we are using our resources. And there are different events in the game that changed the market conditions.
[00:11:34] So what I like to ask the interview guests, come on. Getting in the loop is if you could create sort of an event that would change the market conditions in the game. What kind of event would you create or at least what kind of idea around an event would you create, Rebecca?
Rebecca Kimber [00:11:53] All right. Well, it's a great question, and I love hearing. That's one of the things that I love hearing people talk about at the end. It always is like, why? Because I'm like, where did that person come up with that? This is so fascinating. I mean, it really is something different every time. And I love that. It is always huge food for thought for me. And then I'm like, oh, I want to hear more. But I know it's the end. But but for me, I might. What I'm really interested right now in right now is regenerative agriculture. It just seems like there's just so much potential there. And in. I recently wrote about that, that there's the Rodale Institute. They are actually creating a certification for regenerative organic agriculture and what it stands for. But anyway, so really what would happen if regenerative agriculture became mainstream? So if if meant, you know, many of the big producers in the United States or all around the world, they decided to become regenerative farms. What would happen? What would happen to the climate? What would happen to the food that we what would happen to the products?
[00:13:13] To be honest, I don't know the answer of where all this could go, but I think that it's really fascinating and it has so much potential to impact things in the next 10 years. So I don't know those kind.
Katie Whalen [00:13:25] Yeah. No, I think that's you. You bring up a great point because also right now the game is focused a little bit more on the technical materials, which we explain a little bit in this episode, but it kind of overlooks a little bit. The biological materials. But I think regenerative agriculture would fit so well in that and it would definitely be something to to investigate for future versions of the game.
Rebecca Kimber [00:13:49] Awesome. That's great.
Katie Whalen [00:13:51] Okay. So I've met now I've been hyping up the episode. So what do you think? Do you think it's time to play the-- play and play it? Yeah, let's do it. Let's play it.
Katie Whalen [00:14:02] Hi, this is Rebecca Kimber with Earthbeat podcast, and I am today I'm talking to Katie Whalen, who is the podcast or for getting in the getting in the loop, and I'm really excited to talk to Katie today and I have some questions for her. Hi, Katie.
Katie Whalen [00:14:20] Hi, Rebecca. I'm so excited to be here.
Rebecca Kimber [00:14:23] I'm so excited to be talking to you. I feel like we have so many things to talk about.
Katie Whalen [00:14:26] We do have fun.
Rebecca Kimber [00:14:30] Exactly. Yes. Awesome. Well, we're gonna just jump right into it. And so what we've talked about is that we're gonna try to do a-- This is the sort of the the circular economy one to one. How does the circular economy work? What what does it look like? And just for anyone who's interested in in sustainability or who who has maybe heard the term circular economy, but they're not quite sure.
[00:14:57] So I would love it if people walked away. And after listening to this was people we thought, oh, now I understand. Or I have some clarity or I think that that or, you know, a little bit more clarity on these things. So anyway, hopefully that that sounds good to you.
Katie Whalen [00:15:13] Yes, definitely.
Rebecca Kimber [00:15:14] Perfect.
[00:15:15] So I'm going to start with maybe you could introduce yourself so I know who you are, but to introduce yourself to the listeners who aren't sure, who aren't familiar with your work.
Katie Whalen [00:15:26] Yeah. Awesome. So I'm Katie, as Rebecca said. And I am. You might be able to tell from my voice, I'm an American, but I'm actually living in Sweden right now. And I've been there for, let's say four years and I've been working on my Ph.D. So I'm looking at Circular economy, specifically secular businesses. And so how businesses can create new new types of value in a circular economy and how they can kind of help with the transition to a more circular economy. So I'm now coming up on the final edge of the final, the final little bit of my PHC.
[00:16:10] And in my spare time, I have the podcast that I host called Getting in the Loop. That's focused on circular economy and exploring the topic more in detail. And I have a game that I also invented about Circular economy called In the Loop. So that's a little bit about me.
Rebecca Kimber [00:16:28] Yeah, and I love it. I love your podcast. It's great. It's so insightful. I just learn so much every single time. And your guests are so interesting. They come from all walks of life and all industries is what it seems like. So it's always really fun to listen to.
Katie Whalen [00:16:44] Thank you.
Rebecca Kimber [00:16:45] Yeah. And then how did you-- So I'll get into more about what exactly is a circular economy. But I'm curious as to how you got into-- how you became interested in Circular economy and in particular how you decided to get your PhD in it. It's a very specific thing, so.
Katie Whalen [00:17:02] Yeah. Good question. So I was doing my masters at T U Delft in the Netherlands and I come from more like an engineering and design background. And when I was in Delft doing my masters in design, one of my professors was really into this this idea and it was kind of a newish topic.
[00:17:24] It had gained a lot of popularity, at least in the Netherlands around the time when I was finishing my masters. And I said, like, I have to kind of I was intrigued by it.
[00:17:33] And I said, I have to work with this professor and do a little bit more on the topic. And he was actually kind of working on two topics at the same time. So one was Circular economy. The other one's kind of critical of materials. We don't well, maybe get into that a little bit further, but basically just like materials, how we use them in everyday life and will we have enough to sort of meet our needs in the future?
[00:17:59] Like these were kind of questions that he was exploring. And then he said, why don't you do a graduation project with me? And I did. And that actually ultimately became the In The Loop game as a way to kind of get people excited and learning about Circular economy concepts.
[00:18:16] So that was a little bit how I got into it. And then after I graduated, I was working in the Netherlands for an organization called the Circle Economy, and they were trying to champion the idea in the Netherlands. And I was working with a lot of companies there and seeing kind of the questions that they were having as they were trying to rethink how they were doing business. And some of the questions kind of I wanted to know a little bit more about. And then there was the PHC position that came about and the rest is history, basically.
Rebecca Kimber [00:18:46] Nice. That's great. That's amazing. And how do you like Sweden? I guess I can ask you.
Katie Whalen [00:18:52] Yeah, I love it. I mean, the nature is amazing. And every everyone is also-- really, we're having this discussion before we before we started recording just about how prevalent this idea, ideas of sustainability and also circular economy are in society. So I don't think there's a more perfect place that I could have done my PhD.
Rebecca Kimber [00:19:15] That's great. Yes. And I'm so excited to talk to you about that in particular, because I do feel I'm also Swedish. Originally, we're kind of the opposites. You're originally American of Sweden. And I'm originally Swedish. And then I moved to America, America when I was five. So I'm very weird.
Katie Whalen [00:19:30] We traded places.
Rebecca Kimber [00:19:31] We did. We swapped. Oh, yeah. So I want to talk to you about that in a little bit. But first, if you could just give sort of the just the the CIRCULAR ECONOMY 101, like what does circular economy mean?
Katie Whalen [00:19:46] Yeah, this is a this is a great question and we've been talking about it right on the podcast so far as people are happy. People are probably thinking like what? OK, let's first talk about what this even means.
[00:19:59] Like why do they keep using the term? Well. But basically the idea of Circular economy is saying that like right now in the society that we that we live in, we kind of have a very linear society. So we we take resources from the ground. So we extract materials, minerals, metals, we take them, we make them into components and then we put them into products.
[00:20:28] And then these products, we sort of just distribute at mass scale across the globe, such as like phones, for example. But then a lot of times we treat these things as disposable. So we just, you know, with fear in the states, maybe you send it to a product, to a landfill, you know, you put it in the trash and then Ultimate ultimately ends up in as waste in a landfill, sitting there for who knows how many years or maybe in Sweden.
[00:20:57] We put it in the recycling bin it or something like that, and it might actually become incinerated. So we may actually have some energy that we get back from it.
[00:21:07] But the idea behind this is this is sort of like the linear way of doing things. So we just kind of treat things as disposable and then we go out and we make new products going back to those mines, taking new materials and doing the whole thing over again. And the circular way is kind of the opposite of this. It's saying that there is still a lot of.
[00:21:28] Value left in things when we're done thinking maybe that they have value. So like when we see them sort of as waste, then that's not the case actually.
[00:21:42] So for example, like if I have a phone and I want you know, my phone is maybe two years old and I want to upgrade to a new model, they're still actually is a lot of value, though, in that old phone because you can maybe resell it or you can recycle it and actually get back some of those materials that could then be reused and made into new things.
[00:22:07] So basically, we're saying that this linear way of doing things doesn't make sense and that there's still a lot of value in how we how we and existing things and around us and that we should be able to like rethink how we are using things and extend their their lifetimes.
Rebecca Kimber [00:22:29] Awesome. And that's why I feel like when you say that, it really is what appeals to me about the whole what the concept is. One, because we're taking these things from nature right in the core.
[00:22:41] I-- Well, maybe it's my Swedish background, but I really value nature. And so I don't want to take more than we can then what we're using. Right. But then there's also the economic part of it where it does seem like there's still value in it. So for these companies, if to be able to take things back, for example, a phone, then they don't need to buy the new these new pieces. If those things can be recycled and used again, whether it's that the company uses it or they send it off to a third party. All of these different kinds of things. It seems like there is just a lot of economic value that could be created from just the concept in general, just if more companies started to embrace this idea.
Katie Whalen [00:23:33] Definitely there. There definitely is. And I think no. I sort of was talking about waste earlier. And one of the things that we see like in a circular, the idea sort of an circular economy is that waste doesn't exist like waste. There's like the saying waste is food and it kind of goes back to nature as well. Like Ken Webster, who is one of my favorite thought leaders on the circular economy. And he always gives the example of like a cherry tree. So like if it blossoms and then the the leaves kind of fall to the ground where then they're sucked up by the soil as nutrients to sort of help the tree grow further. And so that kind of this cycling idea. That's why it's sort of it's why it's called circular economy, because we're trying to think about how we can have things be outputs and waste things from one source can actually become food or inputs for new sources.
Rebecca Kimber [00:24:35] Exactly. And that's the thing. And there's this would you say that this goes back to the original design? You mentioned that your that your background is in design and engineering.
[00:24:47] So I'm just I have you know, I have no idea how a phone is is made. But I can. I'm making an assumption and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but that if you have a phone, for example, then there's you have to take this thing apart. Right. You know, everything. What? All of these all of the values out of it. So then is there a design aspect of this where we need to design things to be recycled or to be taken apart again, to be used?
Katie Whalen [00:25:17] Mm hmm. You've touched on a great point there. I think. Yeah. Their design plays definitely plays a major role in multiple sort of aspects. I'll unpack that if you if you are if you're OK with that.
Rebecca Kimber [00:25:31] Yeah, that's great. I think that that's the. Yeah, definitely. That's what I think people are interested in. How does this really look?
Katie Whalen [00:25:38] Yes.
Rebecca Kimber [00:25:38] How does it work?
Katie Whalen [00:25:39] So maybe before I do that I'll kind of explain like some in the research that we've been doing at Lund, there's like this kind of idea of two main strategies that you can do for contributing to a circular economy of these from a business perspective. So one is slowing and then the other one is closing, sort of like closing closing loops and slowing loops. And this is like kind of the only circular economy jargon and I'll try to use.
[00:26:11] But if you think of like slowing loops as like extending the useful life of products and closing loops as extending the useful life of like materials and resources, then that's pretty much the basics. And going back to that phone example. So if you were going to have slowing, you would repair rather than like replace the phone.
Rebecca Kimber [00:26:35] Got it. Like repairing the screen, maybe.
Katie Whalen [00:26:37] Exactly. So like repairing the screen or changing the battery. So it's basically extending the useful life of that phone and. There is no to answer your question about design. Their design plays definitely plays a major role because one of the things that I have my students do in this class that I teach on eco design is they actually try to disassemble phones and see how long it would take them to replace the batteries on certain types of different models of phones. OK. How does it go? Well, it's really easy if there's like a fair phone in their phone 2.0 in the mixed or if I'm not familiar with that. But yeah. So I can send you the link to that. It's a company that's based in the Netherlands and they're trying to incorporate this type of thinking more into their design.
Rebecca Kimber [00:27:37] Oh, cool. Okay. Yes, I'll put that in. I'll make sure to include a link to that one. We have the show notes or-- Yeah.
Katie Whalen [00:27:42] Yeah. And so. Also, like really old phones. They they are more designed for that. So like think of our Nokia is like where you can just pop the back off. Really?
Rebecca Kimber [00:27:54] Yeah, I remember those. Yeah, exactly. You drop it and then it just flies everywhere. All the pieces.
Katie Whalen [00:27:59] Yeah. And then you can put it back together quite easily. Yep. Less high tech.
[00:28:05] Yeah. So the phone. Yeah. So. So there are other models though that you have to first like warm up this special little it kind of looks like a doormat that you would put to block out drafts under a door like I don't know if you've ever seen those things that are. Yeah. Yeah. And then you have to like put them in the microwave and then put that over the phone before you can even open it. Because of the glue that is stuck together to like. It's very complicated and there's many different there's many different steps. And usually in 30 minutes my for certain models of different types of phones. My my students can't even get the battery out after 30 minutes.
Rebecca Kimber [00:28:47] Okay, that's interesting.
Katie Whalen [00:28:49] Yeah. So I think that shows us a little bit that design plays an important role if you're going to think about that, because if I walked into the repair shop to, you know, wouldn't like the Fair Phone 2.0 or with like a different sort of competing phone brand. One of them is going to probably cost more to replace the battery because of at least from like at least in Sweden, because the labor here is, you know, having labor is quite expensive. So it's going to be physically having to like spend more time and more steps to actually get the get the the battery out.
Katie Whalen [00:29:24] So I'd say, yeah, that's a good point, too, with the labor that's involved because it does turn into a labor issue. Yep.
Katie Whalen [00:29:30] Okay. So that's a that's like sort of the example of slowing that I like to give people in terms of design and phones. And then we talked about I mentioned closing as well. Yeah. So closing then. I always like I showed a photo of all these little phones sitting in our jaws collecting dust. Yep. I have one of those. I'm also guilty of it myself. And I know I shouldn't admit to this, but I am very guilty of it as well.
Rebecca Kimber [00:30:03] All right. I know there's no incentives, though, and you know, to give it back.
Katie Whalen [00:30:07] Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I though you sort of hit the nail on the head there because in terms of design from sort of a systemic perspective, if we had a lot of incentives to actually hand in our phone, like if we would actually get a rebate or something for that, then that would actually contribute to closing resource loops because the phones, they, for example, could then be recycled afterwards. And then, yeah, the gold for example, there's only two. Yeah. It only takes like four tons of risks phones to recycle and to like one kilogram of gold compared to two hundred tons of like. Or that you'd need to get the same amount of gold. So there's. Yeah.
Rebecca Kimber [00:31:01] Huh? OK. Yeah. Fascinating. So that's a lot of waste that's just sitting there. I mean, that's just or that's a lot of value that's sitting there.
Katie Whalen [00:31:11] Yeah, I would argue that's a lot of value. That's just like sitting in our sitting in our jaws, just collecting dust. Right.
Rebecca Kimber [00:31:17] Turning into eventually turns into waste. Unless, you know, unless it stays within.
[00:31:24] Yeah. Unless it goes back to the company or it goes back to someone that's gonna do something with it. Exactly.
[00:31:30] Interesting. And I know that Apple has some incentive programs. So my last phone, I gave them back and gave it back and I think I got thirty five dollars.
[00:31:38] So you know that they have started to do some things with it, but there's definitely no incentive for all the old. I have old flip phone still sitting there. I think the kids play with. So.
Katie Whalen [00:31:49] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And there there are definitely there's like the large companies are starting to to do this and as you said we'd like rebates and things like that. And there's also a little companies that we see popping up as well that are realizing that there's still a lot of value in there and facilitating this like take back and return as well.
Rebecca Kimber [00:32:14] Exactly. OK, very interesting. Yeah. That's there's a lot that goes into the phones. I mean, I feel like that is a it's a it's a it's a big one.
[00:32:24] Right. Because you've also the other thing that you've done that we've talked about is mining. Right. And I don't want to go too deep into this just yet. But that's if you could just explain just a smidgen about about mining and why that's important. I'm sure I'll give just a little thing on me is that right now I'm actually taking the Coursera circular economy class, which you are one of the teachers. I haven't gotten to your part yet. I think you're in there somewhere, right?
[00:32:55] Yeah, I haven't gotten there. I'm on week one.
Katie Whalen [00:32:59] I think it's just around the corner. Week two. That's that's where I.
Rebecca Kimber [00:33:02] Yeah, exactly. You know, there was a lot last night was like I just can't get through it. But. Yeah. So we're. So then it starts with mining. And I'll be honest, I was quite I was I was I was a little surprised because I'm most familiar with Ellen MacArthur's website in sort of a way that she talks. So if you're not for anyone, that's if you know, this is kind of circular economy 101.
[00:33:31] Maybe you can talk a little bit about Ellen MacArthur, but I'll just give a little bit of a background, which is basically that the element Arthur Foundation, they really their mission is to accelerate the circular economy. So they work with companies, big companies, small companies. They really just give a lot of amazing information about how companies can make these changes and they give a lot of case case studies, just a lot of just examples of companies that are doing these things of different kinds of products, which is what I like and it's what I write about as well. And I reference the MacArthur Foundation a lot just in terms of products, because I think that's from my end. That's where we need to go. At the end of the day is that products need to be circular, right.
[00:34:21] And we need to have services. Right. Like rent the runway and those kinds of things. So anyway. So then I guess that's why I see kind of the basics there. You know, I get the bite sized version of Circular economy where as this course really goes into mining. So if you could just explain a little bit just briefly about why mining is important in the circular economy.
Katie Whalen [00:34:45] Yes. And so that's a that's a big question.
[00:34:51] Well, I think I think it kind of goes back as well in terms of what we're trying to achieve in like through a circular economy. So one of the would this sort of take make waste? Example the circular economy does the opposite of that. So it take make and then reuse and extend, you know, slow and close. So you're getting these valuable resources that you're maybe mining, for example, you're now having another way of exit. Accessing them not by like going to the mine, but one of the common misconceptions is that, OK. So yeah, mining in terms of its environmental footprint is quite large. And there's also issues in terms of like where materials are distributed and there's environmental issues with that. Are you taking up parts of the earth to get these resources? Also social issues in terms of who is actually mining these materials. But one of the misconceptions is that if we go circular, then we won't have to mine anymore. And I think for me with the. For example, this course that you're to take, the course you're taking. We talk a little bit about that. That's not necessarily the case. Like in order to keep up with our demand for products, our demand for things and also the growing population on the earth, we'll still have to mine. But we can help to reduce the load of the sort of we call them like primary materials, like they're only there, you know, the new ones, like the virgin materials that you get out of the ground. You still you can reduce that that load somewhat by then going circular. So I think yes, that's that's sort of why we started the course with mining just to see like in the question of where do you products come from and why are we talking about circular? It's an important part to not skip over.
Rebecca Kimber [00:36:53] OK. Interesting that so that is really where so much of this begins is in them.
[00:36:59] Yeah. And even if we stop even if we stop wasting, we will probably need to continue to do some level of mining.
Katie Whalen [00:37:08] Yeah. He has to meet over and meet the demands. I think you were talking with Ellen MacArthur Foundation beforehand and I think we're gonna. Yeah. The foundation doesn't really. Good job of explaining the concept to people, and I think one of the things that they started from the perspective of business risks and also when it gained popularity back in the early 2000 and 10 2012, there was a lot of like now. Now it's sort of like business. But there was a lot of discussion about like access to materials for different companies. And so there was really definitely a focus on resources and like the prices of resources and things like that. And that's why companies were interested in this idea as well, because they were seeing that there were certain export export quotas and challenges associated with access to materials and to raw materials. And then, you know, this sort of this is how how it helped the idea of circular economy take off. I don't we don't we don't need to get too far into into that. But it gives you a little bit of a perspective in terms of why there has been such focus on materials and. One of the things as well that I think our course is like the course that you're taking the Circular economy move from learned its focus on like technical material. So this is another sort of circular economy one to one tip is left, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. They have this great diagram there where they talk about like two types of materials. One is like these technical materials. So that's like the things and phones. That's like these materials that you probably never heard of since chemistry class like antimony and beryllium and things like that. And then there's like the biological materials and those are more things like cotton and different fertilizers and wool. And these types of materials are like more natural kind of renewable renewable materials. And we sort of leave that out of our movie. We focus more on the technical materials. But maybe it's good that your listeners that also know that. Yeah, that's the biologic materials are often overlooked, but they also should be sort of part of this concept.
Rebecca Kimber [00:39:36] Got it. OK. Interesting. So then I guess the other question goes into how it is the circular economy. How would circular economy be different from other concepts that we already know, like zero waste or recycling? Right. Like we kind of you know, those are the big words that we sort of have in the United States. I think that people are familiar with, they say, oh, well, zero waste we shouldn't be wasting or we should be recycling or even the word up cycling. I feel like people are starting to become familiar with that. Starting to be a word still gets auto corrected by where it is. Like it's not a word, but I've decided to word. So you know what?
[00:40:21] Is that something that you can speak to a little bit just in terms of what the differences in and why you think the circuit. You know, I don't know. I think the circular economy seems to be a more encompassing idea. I'm just wondering your thoughts on that, if it is how it seems, how it seems to you.
Katie Whalen [00:40:42] Yeah, that's a great question, because a lot of times people say like, oh, we're already doing this or we already. This is like the same as recycling. Right. And that's what people think and what the association initially is. So I think in terms of my response usually to that is that, well, we we look at more concepts than just resi recycling and zero waste because we're also looking at like repair and remanufacturing and refurbishment. So it's not. About like just what's happening at the end of life when no one wants to use this thing anymore. And when it can't be used anymore, and then it kind of goes into recycling. But also like what if companies were able to recapture value from manufacturing a product one time and let's say like large machinery, you could, for example, you know, leased this out to or two to a user who then after a year, you sort of upkeep the machine a bit and then lease it out to a different person. These types of new ideas or new ways of thinking where you're trying to capture monetary value multiple times from like one product, for example. That's sort of the that's where the idea started from, at least in terms of circular economy and how it's how I see it as different than recycling. Awesome. Yeah. Yeah. How. How do you see it, because I think the way that you put it. Rebecca. In terms of like the sort of overarching one is it is a really great way. I'm just I would be curious, like, how do you how do you handle that question?
Rebecca Kimber [00:42:32] Yeah, I mean, that's the thing. I feel like I feel like part of what I tried to do on the blog is to explain it in about 100 different ways. So every week I'm like, wait, how can I explain this differently? And there are so many parts that go into Circular economy.
[00:42:47] So I look at it more from the product perspective. So just from what users or, you know, users consumers are thinking about, because I'm much more the blog is really just for consumers conscious. I call them conscious consumers, people who care about these things. So I think about it more in terms of, for example, fashion like what can we do so that we can continue to buy new T-shirts. Right. And then to keep those within the loop. So I think about it more in terms of. OK, so I need a new T-shirt shirt, a which brand can I buy it from? Is this a good you know? Is this a good company that's actually getting it from. Could it be organic cotton? Is it from bamboo? What are the materials? The. You know what you would call the biological materials. Where where is this coming from originally?
[00:43:46] And then I'm going to use it. I'm going to wear my t shirt. And then what will I do with it when there's a hole in it?
[00:43:52] Right. Or it's probably not something that, you know, a Salvation Army really wants. Right. They it's it's got a big hole in it. It's got a stain on it.
[00:44:01] So, OK, what you know, where does that go? So those are the kinds of things that I think about in terms of like, OK. Does that go and do I you know, do I give it to H M where they have their Dropbox and that stuff then gets recycled in some way with like the fabric. And then what happens to that? So those are kind of that's sort of how I think about it. You know, just how I think about circular economy and products and how I think that users and consumers think about it. Does that make sense? Mm hmm.
Katie Whalen [00:44:34] Yeah, definitely. I think it's it's an interesting point you bring up there as well about like making the pre decision, like should I bring this to the Salvation Army or in Europe at least we have like these little drop. We have use drop boxes. Usually you can see them in every neighborhood. There's like these little drop boxes where you can put your textile textile waste. And people what I was talking to some people who are like experts in textiles and also looking at this issue regarding textiles, circular economy, and they were saying, yeah, a lot of people don't put they don't they only put good quality clothing in those boxes as opposed to like underwear or all of their textile waste. But in reality, it could be actually beneficial to put all of your textile waste there because a lot of underwear, at least maybe men's, 100 percent cotton. So that actually is like a really good, perfect kind of material to be recycled for gas for your. For textiles, but like in it, much better than just putting it in the trash, for example.
Rebecca Kimber [00:45:49] But exactly which I think most people do now. I mean, I have to say, we have all these socks, right. And so it's like, OK, so now I that I have an area where I just go put all the socks in, all the odd stocks and all the underwear and all the things that are holy.
[00:46:02] And then I just make sure that I go and I bring into a drop box. And I have I'm pretty familiar with where that brought drop boxes are. But in Sweden, it's definitely easier. I would say, than it is in the United States. Here there's a real effort that you have to make.
[00:46:16] Whereas in Sweden, you do have those drop boxes.
Katie Whalen [00:46:19] Yeah.
Rebecca Kimber [00:46:19] Within the community.
Katie Whalen [00:46:21] Yeah. And I don't I don't know how it's set up. This is where every system is different. I don't know how to how it's set up. Yeah. And it can even change from one location to the next and in the same country for example. But like a lot of times these boxes they like partner with multiple types of organization. So there is some clothing that gets sent to the Red Cross or these types of secondhand shops, but then other ones they get, they send it to recyclers or to different stages. So yeah, it's but it's quite interesting to think as you as the consumer, you've already sort of predetermined like what is valuable or not. And I know I'm guilty of putting like socks in the trash when actually it would be much better to just put that in like the textile the textile bin, because that actually contributes more to them, like closing these loops that we're trying to close.
Rebecca Kimber [00:47:14] Yeah. And you know, and that was the thing when I was in Sweden. And then maybe we could talk a little bit about just the difference between the United States and Europe.
[00:47:22] And I know you haven't lived in the United States for a while, but. But, you know, you you can explain a little bit how it is in Sweden, at least in terms of ease of use for people who want to recycle in the, you know, in Sweden when they have something like clothing and plastic bottles and glass and all those different kinds of things.
Katie Whalen [00:47:46] Yeah, yeah. So we have the font system for a lot of bottles like beer bottles and water bottles or like Pepsi and Coke, like these types of bottles. I don't know how it is in the states if you have like a deposit on them like you. So you have to return them and you get. Yeah, I think it's the same there. I remember going with my mom to go to the grocery store and returning bottles and getting the deposit back. But in terms of making it super easy, like in your house, a lot of people live in apartment sort of buildings. And in the courtyard there is like, I don't know, I have kind of lost count, but there's like maybe eight different types of bins where you can put different things. So they have glass recycles sorting area. There's carton newspapers. There's like a hard, hard plastic packaging. Just so you're sort of all organic waste as well. So like this is not this would be like your food. So if you have excess food like banana peels, apples, egg shells, things like that, that would go in that. And then there's like just also the sort of what we wouldn't call is like the normal waste, but there's waste for that as well. So it makes it super easy for you as an individual to sort your ways like in your house and then also to just sort your waste like right outside your door practically, which is a little bit different, I think, than in the states, because everything usually goes in one one box.
Rebecca Kimber [00:49:30] Exactly. Yeah, everything goes into one here, at least where we are. Well there are some communities have three where you have one for food waste and you know, just gardening and all the organic stuff. And then one for garbage and then one for recycling. Mm hmm. But yeah, it's definitely not just in my opinion, it's not as easy or as clear of what to do in the United States as it is in as it is. When I was in Sweden there, it was like, wow, there's a lot of recycling options here. Almost to the point where it's like overwhelming.
Katie Whalen [00:50:04] Yeah. Yeah. We get like a thing in the mail of like, what should what should you put in which things, you know, in which bins. And like in our office, we have this whole sign about like, you know, like unique items. I think that's what it's called. And then you can find out like OK, the coffee grinds can go in this thing or the the the the meat bones can go in this thing. Yeah. So it's like you need a key basically to decipher how to how to order.
Rebecca Kimber [00:50:34] And that's how it is here, too. And I think that in here, I think one of the main problems we have here, to be honest, is that. It is different from community. Well, it's not the same as Sweden, but it's different from community to community, what you're allowed to recycle and what you're not. So you can have one community here and then you're. Yes, you can recycle your milk jugs. Right. And then another one where that's a no. So people, I think, are just like, I don't know. So people either stick everything in there and then that turns into, you know, where it's actually making more of a problem for in terms of of destroying the stuff that actually is recyclable. And then there's the problem of just user confusion, I think is just kind of a general issue. Yeah. What do we do? Where or where do we do it? What do you do?
Katie Whalen [00:51:23] I mean, that's a good point. And that's I think why I got so really interested in the idea of Circular economy initially. Like my motivation was because I saw this. Yeah. I saw sustainability. But a lot of it was the pressures that a lot of it early at least the communication I was seeing was it was like more of the individual. And the individual has to act like in a certain way an individual has to be like action and sustainable or environmentally friendly way.
[00:51:49] Whereas in the circular economy it was more about this systems change and maybe there was even the question like does the individual even need to know that this is like how we're doing things? Because from a design perspective, like everything should be you should think through things so that it's really easy for people to make these types of decisions and to just inherently, you know, when they're done using something, they they put it in like the cracked bean.
[00:52:18] And they don't actually if they don't even have to know so much about like which one, it should just be an easy something that you don't even think about. So for me, that was kind of like the intrigue initially of Circular economy thinking that we should just inherently do things in a way that make sense. And they don't have to be advertised as like better for the environment. It should just just be easy to do the right thing.
Rebecca Kimber [00:52:44] Absolutely. And that's the thing that I'm so I think that that's the thing that's so exciting about the idea of Circular economy, because I completely agree. And I know that I write about individual individual action in terms of what we can do in terms of conscious consumption. But it's a very small niche of people who are really willing to put the time and the effort into really thinking about it, you know. So we definitely have the people who are who are like, yes, but I'm going to do this. And, you know, this is a you know, thanks for the information and I'm going to use it. Right. But I it's it's still small. It's still very small. And so I think that for this to be a really impactful, it really has to just be a systemic change. So I kind of am always thinking about that where I'm like, I want to tell people like this has to be a system change. Like this isn't just about you as a person. And I almost feel like that message, even though I am guilty of this, too. This message of like individual change. Yes, it's great. Like, I feel like there are things that individuals can do. And that's what I write about and that's what I want people to understand. Like you can do things. But at the end of the day, the most important thing that we can all do is to work, you know, is to understand the system can change.
[00:54:11] And if that's something where you're getting, you know, a new job or, you know, all these different kinds of things or like when you vote.
[00:54:18] Those are the kinds of things that you can do where to really influence a system change. So anyway, yeah, it's always a struggle of like how do I communicate that? Like you say, it has to be a system change. But yeah, but we individuals can do things too.
Katie Whalen [00:54:37] I don't know. Yeah. No, I also struggle with this too. And it's like on the podcast example as well. My listeners say like what can I do? And then it's like when you sort of in this, you know, chicken and egg kind of. SITUATION, but I mean, from my perspective, if I look out and I see like so much unused value, like every league views different like the phone's example that we were talking about earlier. There is a lot of value in these phones and it makes so much more sense to recycle them properly and be able to get those materials back rather than just like have them sit in a landfill for how many years. So you see that type of thing and you're just like there's like a design flaw somewhere like this. The current system, like something's not working. There's a design flaw and. Yeah. Who. Who does? Whose responsibility does that come back to you? Because you as a one person is can only do so can only do so much.
Rebecca Kimber [00:55:38] Yeah, exactly. And I think that's the thing. When you were talking about that phone, I think that there's always going to be sort of the the early adopters who are like, oh, there's a different phone like I am. I don't need to buy the iPhone. I can buy this new one, the one that I can't remember. What did you say the name of it was the one of the fair phone. Yeah. The fair phone. So then they're like, oh, well there's a fair phone. And if there's fair phone works just as well as my other phone, or maybe it has maybe fewer features or what have you. Maybe it's like a mono phone. I don't know. Just it has something that's unique about it that I as a consumer want. Then I think that there's enough consumers were like, oh, this is great. And then eventually, you know, in I know. I just think that it's gonna take time for these bigger companies to sort of catch on. And then just see, oh, well, there's actually a market for this. So I think that there's sort of this transition that we're in. You know, these like innovative products that some people are willing to, you know, that they're interested in. And then hopefully the other companies can sort of catch on.
Katie Whalen [00:56:50] Yeah, it's funny you say that because fair phone. I think this is actually in the movie that the course that you're the course you're taking. But they were we interviewed them for that. And they have some little there's little clips talking to to them throughout the movie. And one of the things they were saying was like, yeah, we are we're not. It's really difficult for us to take on the big giants. Like that's not what we're really. We're not trying to be like the next big giant in a way that we're just trying to show that there is a different way that things can be done. And our job is to sort of put them not pressure, but just to sort of challenge them to to do things like in a different way. I thought that was really kind of an interesting way of seeing it. And to make that a bit tangible. One of the examples, I think that. Is given is basically this idea that they wanted to use this conflict conflict free. I think it's gold. Don't quote me on that. We have to watch the video. If you want to know for sure. But they want to have this like more this guaranteed conflict free material in their phones. And in order to do that, than they actually had to have their supplier who produces the components sort of changed their way of working a little bit. But then their supplier also supplies like same components to other major phone companies. So by default, they've now sort of changed the system. So maybe you actually have like an iPhone that has these types of better materials in it, just like just because fair phone said like, OK, we would like this for hours. So then actually the industry standard changes, if that makes sense.
Rebecca Kimber [00:58:40] Yeah. That does make sense. It's kind of like helpful. Well, maybe this a different example, but kind of like California where we have our higher standards for cars and emissions and that kind of influences the rest of the country just because you can't just make cars for special cars for California.
Katie Whalen [00:58:55] Yeah, that's a great that's that's a great example. So I think we need more of those types of initiatives and organ companies and organizations who are sort of paving the way. And that's something that maybe you as a bunch of individuals can can do rather than just the individual, although. Fair phone. I think there's like a core team of a couple people who in a mean founder who who led the way there. So yeah, I think so.
Rebecca Kimber [00:59:25] And I think it has to do with innovation. I feel like that's really the thing of that. You know, you have. I feel like just these big companies are I think that it does seem like there are companies that are doing good things that are, you know, bigger companies as well. But I think that they have to sort of almost see, like these little companies are trying things and it's like, oh, did that work? Oh, well, we're going to kind of you know, we require them or we steal their ideas or whatever it is. But and I think that these little companies like the fearful, we said the their phone is their phone, that I was just looking for another phone where I absolutely didn't want an iPhone for my I want to phone for my kids just so that they can walk from, you know, house to house, you know, just within the neighborhood and just simply be able to call me like just the basic flip phone. What is the most basic phone I can possibly get for the cheapest, you know? And so if there is a phone that was really, really basic and it was also a fair, you know, a fair phone and it had better materials in it. Oh, yeah. I'd be all over that because I just want the basics. I don't need all the bells, bells and whistles. As a matter of fact, I I specifically don't want the bells and whistles just because, you know, my kids or they just want to be on the Internet. So.
Katie Whalen [01:00:39] Well, speaking of no bells and whistles, there's like a waitlist for the new Nokia like rerelease of the old phone. Have you heard that?
Rebecca Kimber [01:00:47] Oh, no. Interesting.
Katie Whalen [01:00:49] Yeah. So there you go. Hardcore. Go back to the old Nokia.
Rebecca Kimber [01:00:54] Yeah, exactly. Just go back. We're going back in time. I feel like there's minimalism throwback. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, exactly. Right.
Katie Whalen [01:01:04] This is like the cycle of things. Everything comes and goes like every 100 years. It does. It does seem like it comes and goes, right. Yeah. Yeah.
[01:01:14] It's interesting. I'm I wanted to actually ask you because you were asking me how I got involved in Circular economy. So I'm really curious. How did you wear where? How did you first hear about the concept?
Rebecca Kimber [01:01:27] Yeah. So I was actually I started off where I have been home with my I'd been home with my kids for a while. And I started kind of hobby blogging and just I wanted to write about environmental solutions. And so that's that's always it's ever since since my son was born, it was just became such a big thing for me. I started looking into really just what are the things that kids would like, what are the toxic things that kids get into? Right. He was born in 2009. So by the time I really started looking into it, it was 2010. And there was a lot of information about phthalates, you know, just in skin care and, you know, toys with LED and PPC and in just those kinds of things. Right. Like cleaning products. Kind of just like the typical stay at home mom kind of interests that I had. And then I. So then I actually started a blog at that time and with those kinds of things. And then the technology got away for me. Too many too many bells and whistles, actually. And but then I started it again and and really just as a hobby. And then I came across Circular economy. I was like, oh, because I was really looking into my. Solutions. I was like, OK, I really need to. I really want to understand this. And I found the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. I just I can't remember how I stumbled upon it. And I was like, oh, big. No, that's the thing. This is what this is really what I want to do. Like, there's really nothing else that makes any kind of sense to me because everything. This should be the foundation for all thinking when it comes to innovation. So it doesn't really. The way that I see it is it doesn't really matter what industry you work in, because this should be the foundation of most businesses. You know it. And so that was I was like, this is what I want to. This is the thing. So that was really where I started to take the blog seriously and started looking for products and, you know, and just relationships with with with companies, et cetera. So anyway, that's how I got into it. Very cool. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I think that it's great. I really feel like I actually I don't know if this is just a random, random thing, but I don't know if you read the book. No Impact Man by Colin Beaven.
Katie Whalen [01:03:52] But I know I haven't. I have now has put this on my mind to do my to do my to read or read list.
Rebecca Kimber [01:03:59] Yes, it's great. I feel like this is the book where this is the book that creates so much conflict for me.
[01:04:08] You really need to write to this author because he's just like blown my mind with so many of the things that he wrote about. It was actually a documentary and he wrote he tried to go basically zero, zero environmental impact for one year. And he lives in New York City. And this is about ten years ago. I think it's about a decade old. And he had a little girl and a wife. And so and he gets commissioned to do this book, right? Like he gets published. And so he's like, OK, I'm gonna go where the family is going. Zero, like zero environmental impact for one year. And he does it in quarters. If I remember, I could be wrong as well, because since I read it. But I think he does it and in a quarter at a time. So he's like, OK, first we're going to turn off the lights. Right. Because, you know, we don't have a weekend. We don't have any we can't use energy. Right. He's like, OK, we got to power my computer. How do I power my computer? So then there are New York cities. I think he puts on some kind of like solar device. I think that was part of it. It's been a while. But then it goes into then he's got a, you know, shop only at the farmer's market. And then it's got to only be from the food has to only come from. I can't remember what he said. I think he turned it into like 80 miles from his house or something like that. That's where the food has come from.
Katie Whalen [01:05:17] And they do seasonal local in season. All right.
Rebecca Kimber [01:05:21] So he basically just this book, his home almost like funny for this family because it's just so hard. And so he fights about like, this is my full time job. And he's like, well, I'm writing this book. So it's OK. This is my fulltime job. But really try to be zero environmental. It's just so difficult. And so, you know, and he's really his writing is so good and so relatable because it's like he just writes about how difficult it is. And he's in his bathtub trying to watch us all. And I'm just trying to do it, you know, use his homemade soap and wash out his daughter, three year old daughter's clothes. And so, anyway, that was sort of this book that just got me being like, wow, like, we've got to have something better. Like, you cannot just be zero waste because it just we can't we can't all make this our full time jobs.
Katie Whalen [01:06:12] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And we have this discussion a lot in the office, like, are you going to take the chains to a conference or are you going to fly to a conference? You know, how are you going to get there? And that's like one of the sort of things, because if you're studying environmental issues and then you take, you fly, then you're often called a hypocrite. Yeah, but yeah, it's like it often comes down to just like tradeoffs in terms of. Time and convenience as well. So if there would be like a simpler way or a yeah, if there were more connections by train, for example, than if a lot of times could be easier to to do it. I think they're changing this now, but it was like it was. It was as it as expensive, if not less expensive to fly from Malmo to Stockholm rather than design, which is absurd. Yep. It's like a yes, maybe five hour train ride. And you probably spend that same amount of time like if you go to the airport and go through security and then take the train from Stockholm, Orlando Airport into the city center, like you probably spend the same amount of time. But one definitely has more of an environmental impact.
Rebecca Kimber [01:07:25] Yeah, exactly. And that's the thing. It's it really is. The whole thing just becomes so complicated. Right. I think the other thing with and one of the the things with, for example, a lot of the stuff that I read on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, maybe you can answer this is is I read a lot about sending stuff back. Right, to refill. So a lot of these questions are like, oh, so we should be, you know, send it, you know, like you get your whatever, toothpaste tablets. Right. And you get in a little box and then you send it back. And I'm like, is that better? I don't know. You know, is it better to send that thing back, like, OK, than I drive over to the U.P.S. store, put it back in a little box, and then it goes on a you know, it goes on the truck. And is that better than it going into recycling? I don't know. It's like it just becomes so difficult.
Katie Whalen [01:08:18] Yeah. You touch on a really good point there, Rebecca, because like for clothing, libraries, for example, there's like some research about like if you have like rent rentals for clothing, libraries, like is it more environmentally beneficial? It depends on so many things in terms of like how you're getting there. If you're driving and if you're taking taking the bus, if you're biking like there's all these different sort of decision points. And the thing that I've learned from studying environmental issues for the last more than four years is the fact that like there's no there's everyone wants like an easy answer. But it's really usually like gray. There's no black and white because it's there's a lot of different tradeoffs. And I think in terms of for at least how I see it, like for Circular economy. When and why? As I said, I was interested in this and really think it's a it's has to be part of the way forward. Is that in terms of like as an individual, I shouldn't have to think about these things. It should just be automatic. And that yeah, it should just be like easy for me to make the right choice.
[01:09:32] And so I think that I think that businesses and policymakers and these types of. System, big system players, they have like the ability to actually have it be the case where it is like where I is the individual make the right choice and it should be not just up to me to do it.
Rebecca Kimber [01:09:56] Yeah, you're not out there. So that was one of the things that I have a question for you on. Is really just do you think that that measurement and like certifications, what do you think about those two things in terms of, you know, meant like measuring environmental impact and having like metrics associated with it so we can sort of see, oh, well, the you know, I don't know if you had to carbon. I don't know like a carbon number. I don't know. Something like that. And then also certifications like third party sort of certifications. What do you think in terms of if that's helpful or or not?
Katie Whalen [01:10:31] Yeah. Great question. Yeah, I would I would have to say it. It depends, I guess, in terms of what we see from and I'm not like an eco label expert, but there's different types of like eco labels and there's so many types. One of the issues is that consumers can get overwhelmed and not know sort of what they actually mean. So my sort of going back at you or sort of my response would be like, so what? What for what? Like what is? I guess we have to before we do something, we should try to think about what we're trying to actually achieve by it.
[01:11:08] Although, yeah, we see like I think with the energy efficiency, at least in Europe you have like a plus a plus plus like these different things. I think that has. I think there are studies that have shown that this does make a difference in terms of people using these types of things, or at least again, getting organizations to put like better, more efficient products on the market because they don't want to have their product have like a D, you know.
[01:11:42] So it guess it's like in terms of who is it for? Is it for trying to get better products on your market and then having this be sort of mandatory? That could be a way for sure. But in terms of individual consumers, there's there's just like there's. I'll give an example, like eggs where there's like Fairtrade, there's range, there's like organic and there's just normal like there's different grading schemes for different criteria. Yeah. And what does that actually mean? Because you might think I can organic egg is like, meaning that they're all happy in a field. But like actually it could be that they're still like cooped up in cages is just based on like what they're eating. So. Yeah, exactly. And I don't think yet. You go into that your normal store, like most people don't really know. So I think my question like my answer would be like, for who? For who and why? Rather than just automatically so they can make a difference.
Rebecca Kimber [01:12:44] Yeah, but would there ever be a price on waste like, you know, would that be something or waste or pollution? I wonder if that would be like I know there's talk about carbon taxes and things like that. But what about like waste? I hear everyone hates the word taxes. Yes. Like a price. A price on waste.
Katie Whalen [01:13:04] Yeah. I mean, there's many to it. There's there's different ways to do this, at least from what I'm seeing as well. Like so one of them. It's like you put it on the company. Do you make them reliable for different things and responsible for different things that they put on the market? So we have like extended producer responsibility, which I'm not going to kind of get into that, but basically where you try to address companies and make them responsible for what they put on the market in terms of the fact that it's gonna be waste. But there's different people like Walter Style, who I had on my podcast a couple of weeks ago. Yeah. Ah. And there's other people like him who argue that it's not like a not a not enough and that there should be more liability and more responsibility then than now. But what am I. When you're told we were talking earlier about like the recycling. I thought about this example from. The Netherlands, although there's I'm sure that there's other places that do this, but I was thinking of like a pilot, maybe you think it's actually now not just a pilot, they've actually implemented it. But in the city of Maastricht, which is like in the south of the Netherlands, they have a pay to throw basically model for like their waste. So the individuals they have. Yeah. They have to actually buy specific types of bags that are more expensive for like certain types of waste.
[01:14:34] So then you actually the idea is that it actually decreases how much you will throw away because they also have like other sorting bins.
[01:14:44] So you're supposed to like store all of your waste as much as possible and then use the more expensive trash bags for like these things that can't be that that can't be recycled or sorted.
Rebecca Kimber [01:15:00] That's right. I heard about there. What? Where is that? Is that in Switzerland?
Katie Whalen [01:15:04] This one's in Maastricht. But I think that they're doing this all over kind of different different places. So there probably is one as well. In Switzerland, this is my I'm the one I'm thinking about is Maastricht in the Netherlands because I was reading about this. And then actually my friends used to live in Maastricht. So I was checking out their trash bins when I went over to their house.
Rebecca Kimber [01:15:24] I felt like the funniest thing, though. Good stuff. Well, in Sweden, it's like, wait, let me see this.
[01:15:30] Look what's happening here. Just going through your trash. But like.
Katie Whalen [01:15:34] Yeah, well, my friend, she said, well, actually, because she had been living elsewhere in the Netherlands where they didn't do this. And then when they moved, she was like, yeah, actually I didn't realize how little like. Now, of course, I'm drawing a blank on the top. The term for this. It's like the solid municipal waste. Basically, the things that you can't that are not organic waste, that are not glass, that are not plastic, that are not metal, like all the kind of leftover sort of things. And she was like, yeah, I realize actually how little sort of what's how little is left over. Once you kind of go through this sorting thing, which I think is exactly what they're trying to get at as well. And you. Yeah. So.
Rebecca Kimber [01:16:27] Interesting. Yeah, I heard about that when I was in Europe that there's definitely different kinds of schemes, and that was one of the things that the Swedes all said. I was like, you guys are doing so great. And they were like, well, you should really see what they're doing in the Netherlands.
Katie Whalen [01:16:41] And there's different concepts for these things. And basically with that, the idea of to reduce how much waste you actually throw away, which I think is great.
Rebecca Kimber [01:16:50] Yeah. That's great. I mean, that's really the thing. And, you know, and I just I wonder I wonder if you're American, you know, when you've lived in Europe, how would you. What do you think the potential is in the United States for us to be as concerned as Europeans? And I'm kind of also wondering, why are Europeans? And I don't want to lump all Europeans together. But it does seem as a whole and not just Sweden, but just Europe in general seems to have more of these initiatives. And I'm just wondering why why do you think that is?
Katie Whalen [01:17:33] Now you've got me. Now I really I know I don't have an answer.
Rebecca Kimber [01:17:37] I don't have an answer to it either. I don't.
Katie Whalen [01:17:40] Well, I mean, I can take I'll take a guess and heavy run.
[01:17:44] But I think one of the things is that there's. At least from what I'm seeing, at least in the Netherlands, for example, where Circular economy is this massive issue and has been very much on the national agenda now for over five years. Yeah, it's pretty much maxed out in terms of its space capacity, in terms of its resources. There's a yeah, there's there's nowhere else for them to kind of go. And if they want to continue to innovate and to thrive and survive, then maybe this could be a good way of doing it. Because although they're really reliant on imports from other they they export things, of course. Well then I'm gonna get to have people write in like this is not this is not the Netherlands at all. No. But but they have to sort of they have to manage their resources carefully. And I think also why going back to what I said in terms of the Y Circular economy became such an issue. Why I think Circular economy grew in popularity sort of with the perfect timing of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation early 2000. Tens is about like this resource resource issues and managing our resources differently because certain materials that are found in mobile phones and that are needed for the transition to more sustainable energy. So like solar panels, electric vehicle batteries, what else? Wind turbine generators like these types of things that we associate with that we're going to need more of. If we want to produce like our energy more sustainably, these types of materials, a lot of them are not found in Europe or we don't have like minds for them in Europe. So from a geopolitical sense, like Europe is reliant on other parts of the world for these types of things. So it becomes like a risk that you're going to be playing down the line like will you actually be able to meet the energy demands of your people if you can't produce these types of solar panels and these wind turbine generators and things? So I'm simplifying it, of course.
Rebecca Kimber [01:20:06] But maybe that sort of you know, it does, because in the United States, we do have ginormous space. We just have a lot more space and resources and natural resources. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Europe is very condensed. Like there's a city on top of a city on top of a city like or you know, where it kind of feels like, oh, there's a city. Now we go to the next one, Sweden solar, more spread out.
Katie Whalen [01:20:30] But yeah. But what they also sort of do a good job of preserving that what they have. I think they're quite proud of the fact that they're like the least densely populated country in in Europe. Maybe if I'm correct.
[01:20:43] Yeah. Yeah, exact I know there's not that many of us. A lot of us have left and there's so much space as well. Right. So. Yeah, exactly. It is it is kind of like a big California kind of a state.
Rebecca Kimber [01:20:56] Yeah. A lot of space. Yeah. Yeah.
Katie Whalen [01:20:59] We're going back to what you had said about like why what could you sort of make. A change in in the Netherlands. In the United States? I think so. I had Kate Dailey, who's of closed loop partners, which is yes, I listen to it.
Rebecca Kimber [01:21:15] It was great. Yes, I actually sent that out of my newsletter. I was like, please listen to this. She's so good.
Katie Whalen [01:21:21] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And so Kate was on the Getting in the Loop Podcast and she was talking about like what's happening in the states. And I think she hit the nail on the head when she talked about businesses playing a role.
[01:21:34] And I think that's how she's seeing the interest in terms of interest from companies trying to rethink how they're doing things and to make a difference and a change.
[01:21:44] And I think that that's like that would be the way that I would see forward in in the states and how we would actually be able to make a lot of noise about this issue.
Rebecca Kimber [01:21:57] I absolutely agree. I feel like we are. So it is really the thing that needs to happen is that businesses need to say, hey, we can keep the value and we don't want to create more waste. That's expensive. And and we're also, you know, doing something good for the environment. I mean, I think that that's the thing. I mean, those are the brands that I really try to write about because it's like, OK, there are really good companies that really do you know, they're not perfect. And we can't really expect perfection. But there are a lot of companies I know that I use Patagonia as an example a lot. But, you know, they do really seem like it's kind of woven into the fabric of their of their company. You know, as a sustainability and like innovation. And what can we do?
Katie Whalen [01:22:40] Yeah. Yeah. I'm curious. So you mentioned Patagonia. Do you have any other favorite examples, like favorite brands?
Rebecca Kimber [01:22:48] Yeah, yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's the thing. I have a lot of favor brands. I actually my new favorite product right now, it's the soda stream which are probably written about too much. But I think that that's a really good one. I read about that on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and I was like, yes, because we were buying all these, you know, aluminum cans of bubble water that was driving me crazy because my kids were taking one sip and then they were throwing it all out and then we were losing way weight. Who drank out of this one? And, you know, it just was turning into a giant waste mess. And so I think that's a good product. That's an example. And then the other one is growth collaborative. I don't know if you've heard of them in the United States or in Europe, but in the United States, they are like they do like green cleaning stuff, but they're actually doing some good innovative stuff where, like, they have cleaning pods rather than cleaning like a big but buying a big jug, you know, of cleaning solution. Then you just buy a little you know, it's like a little one else kind of a packet. And then you just add water to it at home and you buy.
[01:23:50] You know, I've used my own like plastic bottles that were empty. But you can also and I also have one of their glass ones, you know. So then you're using like words very much where you've really reduced waste.
Katie Whalen [01:24:03] So you're not shipping water around the world, which is like.
Rebecca Kimber [01:24:07] Exactly. Do we really need to be shipping that much horrible? This is insane to me.
[01:24:12] Yeah, yeah, exactly. So that's the thing. So those are the things that I look at. I I'm always looking for design, you know, and I just found that every lane they actually have a real cashmere like recycled cashmere. And that was something I just found the other like last week, I got an e-mail from them and I was like, that's great. Like, let's let's use you know, there are brands that are really they're not perfect. Right. But they are trying to use these kinds of materials. And I think that's really positive.
Katie Whalen [01:24:45] Yeah. And I love how they like. I love that these types of examples, like they they can show what's possible and try to challenge people's assumptions in terms of like what we think and what we might think is possible, but actually, like it could be done differently. And they also challenge than other organizations in their industry, too.
Katie Whalen [01:25:06] So I think it's cool. Yeah, I think so, too. And I think that is a really even interesting for these companies to create what they're creating, because it's all I mean, when I see just go to a regular store, I'm like, oh, most this is just, you know, junk.
Rebecca Kimber [01:25:19] Like it's toxic in so many ways for either when it's products, you know, like products that we put on our skin, you know, and and in other products that we buy that are just just toxic for the environment. So it just seems like it's kind of like a challenge for these companies, like come on, do something interesting like and incorporate this into your core of your company and into your marketing, you know, and I know how hard that is to like work in the messaging. And how do you you know, it's really hard. But I think that if you if brands that do it well are gonna do really well in the next 10 years, it's kind of the way that I see it, because I don't think that I know that it's a small niche of people, but I think that it's growing. And I especially see. Younger people who really are starting to care like they don't want to buy junk, you know, and they're willing to rent. They're willing to buy used. You know, they want to save the environment and they want to save money. You know, there's just so many ways of getting people to really care.
Katie Whalen [01:26:19] Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely.
Rebecca Kimber [01:26:22] Yeah. Well, I feel like maybe we should start to wrap it up because I know that we've been talking for a while and I don't want to take up your entire day.
[01:26:30] And I know that my kids are about start waking up again.
Katie Whalen [01:26:34] It's like your day is starting and my day is ending.
Rebecca Kimber [01:26:36] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. What time is it there? I don't even know.
Katie Whalen [01:26:39] It's like it's almost four.
Rebecca Kimber [01:26:41] Oh, OK. All right. Sounds good. Is it starting to get dark there now?
Katie Whalen [01:26:44] Yeah.
Rebecca Kimber [01:26:45] Is it?. Yeah, it's dark here too. But it's six thirty in the morning.
Katie Whalen [01:26:49] Oh yeah. It shouldn't start to get. Yeah. It's so sad. Like this part of the year kills me when it starts to get dark so early and doesn't get light until like almost nine o'clock in the morning you know.
Rebecca Kimber [01:27:03] Oh, yeah. That's tough. How many hours of daylight do you get in the winter?
Katie Whalen [01:27:09] Yeah. Mayb-- Usually it's like daylight from 9:00 until three thirty four o'clock. Yeah.
Rebecca Kimber [01:27:16] Oh, man, that's just when the kids are getting out of school too. So that's like right when you want to be outside.
Katie Whalen [01:27:21] Yeah. There's days when I just like don't leave my office. I go there in the dark and then I leave in the dark. And actually we have like a health promotion benefit that they give you to actually encourage you to go outside for like an hour a week, basically like during the hours of 11:00 and one. And I think it's so that you actually can get the sun's, the sunlight.
Rebecca Kimber [01:27:41] Yes. Here. Oh, wow. Yes, I. Yeah. This California girl would not be okay.
Katie Whalen [01:27:50] No, I'm very jealous. Yeah, but. Yeah.
Rebecca Kimber [01:27:53] Oh, cool. Well, good luck to you in having another Swedish winter.
Katie Whalen [01:27:58] Thank you. And I'm gonna say keep enjoying the California sun.
Rebecca Kimber [01:28:03] Oh, it is pretty fabulous. I enjoy it. Cool. Well, thank you so much, Katie. I really appreciate this. This has been really enlightening. I've learned so much from you. Just in this, I'm going to. How long we've been talking about? Maybe an hour or so.
Katie Whalen [01:28:19] It was super fun. And thanks so much for for the invite to to come on and do a little bit of circular economy 101. I hope that we made it a little bit. Yeah. I hope that it was clear, clear for the listeners and not too many complex ideas. It's very difficult to explain in such a short amount of time.
Rebecca Kimber [01:28:40] Yeah, well, you know, you did a great job. I think that we hit on some really good topics. So and you gave me you've enlightened me a lot, especially on the mining part, because that was that's really where a lot of this begins.
About the Show
Getting In the Loop is a weekly podcast dedicated to exploring how to transform to a more circular society. Join host Katie Whalen as she examines the challenges facing our current resource use and discovers alternatives to the ‘take, make, dispose’ way of doing things. Each week she interviews circular economy experts about what they’re doing and learning. Together we'll uncover what circular economy means in practice and find out what's being done to keep our resources in a loop rather than sent to waste.