Mrs Market | Recycling as a circular economy
What markets could do to become drivers for sustainable retail and become more relevant, diverse and innovative in the process.
marketti, traders, street markets, sustainability, recycling, Zero Waste, upcycling,
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Recycling as a circular economy

What markets could do to become drivers for sustainable retail!

I must say, I found January a bit depressing.  It’s not the cold, the grey or the short days that got to me, I love this time of year as it affords the time to reflect on lessons learnt in the previous 12 months and plan ahead with fewer distractions.  What did it was researching sustainable packaging for the markets industry and the conclusion I came to doesn’t make for happy reading.

More and more markets are making the move to sustainable packaging, though in reality the infrastructure isn’t in place either on site or regionally to process this waste.  In addition, to a lack of composting facilities with high enough temperatures to deal with the new wave of PLA plastics, the contamination of recycled materials, either because they are mixed with food waste or just through a lack of adequate signage on recycling bins, renders whole batches unusable and therefore consigned to landfill anyway.

It’s all a bit of a mess, with little joined up thinking so far, so I was more than happy to find an article on LinkedIn at the weekend asking if the Scandinavian model of Trash Shopping Malls could be accommodated  ‘in the second-hand street market trade?’ courtesy of Nicholas Kasic, Markets Manager at Portobello and Golborne Road Markets.

The basic premise, if you do not have time to link to the full article about ReTuna, is a shopping mall with recycling and sorting facilities on site that the malls businesses have first dibs on. All businesses in the mall have a recycling, reusing or repurposing model and only when everything that can possibly be used is rejected, does the leftover get sent for further sorting or landfill.  In a country with a 90% success rate on recycling, that puts UK targets to shame.

With so many market operations linked by necessity to street cleansing and waste, my only question here, is why stop at the second-hand street market trade?  With more markets in the UK than there are stores of Morrisons and Aldi combined, think what the impact could be if market authorities closed the loop on recycling in their area on both publicly run and privately licensed markets.

If each market created the incentives for at least one business that repurposes waste alongside a Repair Café and Zero Waste packaging stalls such as Jar Tree on Leeds Market, over 3,000 new businesses would be created, not to mention a raft of skills that would be either learnt or rekindled.  Pair this activity with community Makers Spaces and the capacity for new businesses repurposing everything from furniture to fashion, electronics and even building materials, could help us meet regional targets on recycling by drastically reducing the amounts sent to landfill.

Markets have in spades, the latest buzzword lauded as a saviour to the high street, experiential retail.  If we can step the offer up a notch with omnichannel retail in combination with business run on the ReTuna model, then as an industry, we have the capacity to make some meaningful change by closing the loop on recycling, educating the public and creating new businesses.  Not to mention making markets more diverse and innovative in the process.

With only one planet, what have we got to lose?

To comment on this post or join the conversation, head over to the article on LinkedIn

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