Rheaply’s Circularity 21 Recap

June 23, 2021

Last week, a few members of the Rheaply team engaged in some motivational conversations and insightful sessions at GreenBiz’s Circularity ‘21 conference. After three days of keynote presentations, breakout discussions and interactive problem-solving forums, the team is looking back and finding inspiration from the work our peers in the circular economy are engaged in. 

The Rheaply delegation to Circularity ‘21 included Garry Cooper (Co-Founder and CEO), Daniel Kietzer (Director of Ecosystem Growth), Tom Fecarotta (VP, Marketing), Derek Doeing (Marketing Technologist), and Julia Millot (Marketing Intern). 

The team hosted a Clubhouse discussion recapping our learnings and transcribed part of it into this post. Whether you were able to attend or not, here are some of the ideas that our team was most revved up by and major takeaways as we focus on the future of reuse at Rheaply.

Circularity 21 title card

Circularity 21 takeaways 

What was the most inspiring or interesting thing you learned at the event? 

  • Tom: Adam Minter’s talk on emerging markets because I’m passionate about combating e-waste, the fastest growing waste stream on earth. The shift from 4G to 5G is underway and is going to result in the highest turnover of electronics in history. This makes me think about how we can apply an exchange model to make the most of electronics at their highest quality through reuse efforts.
  • Julia: During his Ask An Expert session, Bill McDonough reframed and expanded the 3 R’s of reduce, reuse, recycle to 6 R’s of refuse, reduce, reuse, recover, recycle, refuse. He started by explaining that we need to refuse using certain products and materials, such as single-use plastics, before we even get to reducing our overall consumption. Staying in line with his cradle-to-cradle framework, Bill advised on making the most of what we have through reuse efforts and then working towards recovering as many assets as possible. Ultimately, recycling should be a last resort before we have to refuse (or waste) materials and send them to landfills.
  • Derek: To me, the most inspiring ideas from the event came from the discussion with Catherine Coleman Flowers of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice. The work that she’s completed and facilitated through her career to tie in rural development and social justice really hit home for me. I appreciated her message of working together to solve climate and environmental issues across the urban/rural divide in the United States. 

What are you taking away from the event and how does it apply to furthering the goals of the circular economy?

  • Daniel: The Global Battery Alliance, which Matty Stanislaus represents, is working on a cool project that collects data on EV batteries. If successful at surfacing the quality, status and life cycle of the batteries, this data could help reduce the processing time spent at a battery recycler’s facilities and makes the decision for the second life of cells easier. My takeaway is that figuring out the right data levers to pull for different materials and assets can lead to impactful savings down the road. 
  • Garry: The few things I saw around how a green recovery can also be a black and brown recovery seemed to generate a lot of interest. This was a big focus of the session that I was a part of and it led to further discussions during the conference around how we can couple environmental initiatives with social equity. 
  • Julia: The themes around building citizen trust in not just your products and services but also within a community of neighbors or customers was powerful. There are proven network effects that people buy into sustainable initiatives more when they see others around them doing the same. This means that messaging in the circular economy should focus less on what each individual should be doing to play a part and focus more on what others individuals in the community have already done to promote engagement. Based on that, I’m interested in integrating stories and features into our marketing materials and product on uplifting the successes of what others have been able to achieve and what we can do to get others to a similar spot. 
  • Tom: Adam Minter said, “You don’t go looking into someone’s backyard to figure out what they’re doing with waste, you need to go into their warehouse.” I feel like if everyone is trying to fight the issue of waste independently, this will be a losing battle. We need organizations to connect different warehouses with each other to make resource discovery happen earlier, before the onset of a procurement decision. This was emphasized during the “Power of Procurement” session when EPA Advisor Holly Elwood discussed the importance of reusing rare earths. If we’re going to look towards a future of more security, accessibility, and resiliency, then we need to be mindful of how we’re mining for these rare earth materials and the ways in which we’re going to recover them. 
  • Derek: This was my first time getting to be engaged with the circular economy community at this scale and so I learned more about who is invested in this work and which topics are most compelling to them. Being connected to the community, seeing how broad it is and understanding what people and organizations are doing to further the circular economy was inspiring. 

Join Rheaply next year at Circularity ‘22 in Atlanta, Georgia!

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Rheaply’s vision is to make the world’s resources visible, easily transferable, and more valuable in our global marketplace.