Visions of a Circular Future: What if every industry embraced circularity?

Mpact Recycling was founded upon being able to service the packaging industry by reclaiming and recycling as much post-consumer waste as possible, thus planting the seeds of a full circular economy. As recently as 2022, we helped recycle over 700,000 tonnes of packaging waste rather than send it to landfill, turning it back into many useful new packaging products for our clients. While it isn’t the perfect circular future we’re committed to, it is a start.

In an age where environmental concerns are at the forefront, we feel it’s important to visualise the potential of circularity beyond packaging; circularity as the basis of a more innovative, sustainable, and resilient world. It’s a compelling, provocative thought – a tangible destination for this collecting, sorting, and recycling journey.

So, take this flight of fancy with us. Let’s imagine The Circular Future.

The Circular Future of Tech Products:

Consumer tech is one of the fastest-moving industries. There’s an alarmingly short amount of time between an innovation entering the market, and that innovation becoming standardised among the innovator’s competitors.

The most expensive smartphone, television or computer you could buy in 2014, doesn’t come close to an entry-level product made in 2024. At the same time, more and more products are pivoting to “smart”, silicon-based modes of operation. We are in a retail age where premium prices can guarantee build quality, but not relevance. Rapid development means that it’s impossible to “future-proof” even the most expensive products.

Forced or not, this unprecedented rate of obsolescence in tech (and subsequent upgrade obsession among consumers), hasn’t taken electronic waste much into account. New types of products and categories emerge every year, each twice as effective as their predecessors but also twice as likely to be phased out/replaced in half the amount of time. For all the benefits to our quality of life, the repercussions of obsolete tech is the grave issue of e-waste.

Gadgets are circular. Not necessarily in practice, but in nature. A phone is a mass of circuitry, ports, glass and plastic, and each component can be recycled to make a better phone. The number of computer chips that go to landfill is staggering, considering we experienced a severe chip shortage only a few years ago. CPUs are 100% recyclable and can be made into new chips that use the latest processes. If chip manufacturing became more circular, it would ease the burden by stemming reliance on raw materials and mining.

Visions of a Circular Future

Imagine a future where every device was made circular. Where you could pop your phone into a machine that would use the materials to generate a brand-new phone, all based on an economy of template schematics that manufacturers could sell instead of products. Imagine how life would change if consumer electronics made room for open-source innovation over the established order of big brand manufacturers. Extend that to other obsolescence-based tech industries like consumer automobiles, or networking.

This paradigm shift would not only extend the lifespan of devices but also significantly reduce electronic waste.

The Circular Future of Textiles & Fashion:

Historically, the fashion industry was quite sustainable.

Before trends were harnessed by industry to artificially stimulate buying culture, people kept only a small selection of clothes (and textile products in general), relying on artisans like tailors and haberdashers to keep clothing in a healthy, wearable state. Clothing was rarely thrown away as each item was designed to last. Handing clothing down to younger family members wasn’t just viable, it was the norm.

Today, fashion is an industry that has become notorious for its lack of sustainability. It is said that certain “fast fashion” brands divide each year into as many as 52 distinct micro-seasons. Manufacturing is led by this, so instead of waiting for everything to be sold before introducing a new line, fashion brands simply get rid of what they refer to as “obsolete wear”.

Mountains of these items end up on beaches across the continent, to at best be resold by vendors willing to risk their lives to pick through them, and at worst, become pollution. Certain brands even deface their products before dumping them to avoid “cheapening the brand” with thrift.

Visions of a Circular Future

We envision a circular fashion industry that makes nothing from raw resources. This industry would leverage technology to break down existing clothing into their base materials, which could then be remade into new, fashion-forward, garments over numerous cycles. Instead of buying new fashions, people would purchase templates (not unlike the existing 3D-print economy) from retail storefronts, or even create templates of their own for more personal and unique looks.

This would migrate fashion from a linear, end-product-based system to a circular template-based system, giving designers, brands, and stores a new lease on life as to the artistic merit and scope of their products. More importantly, it would end the burden of clothing surplus ending up on Africa’s shores and in landfill.

The Circular Future of Agriculture & Food:

Before the advent of grocery stores and supermarkets, food was very different. People propagated crops of their grain, fruits and vegetables, using seeds and cuttings from yields, to grow more crops. They also reared livestock, instead of relying on stores for eggs, meat, dairy, and hide.

The shift from agrarianism to consumerism has changed our relationship with food to one defined by excess and waste. It’s not just food packaging going to landfills (these are, fortunately, mostly recyclable and the packaging industry is working towards solutions that ensure that all packaging is recyclable), but the food itself – a lot of it perfectly edible… but NOT recyclable.

The global issue of food waste could be addressed in the short term by challenging the fallacy around expiration dates. Food expiry isn’t an exact science, and it often doesn’t take aspects such as quality of storage and refrigeration into account. With the food-safety technology we have now, use-by and sell-by dates serve little purpose but to ensure the artificially rapid obsolescence of food products in pantries and aisles, leading to perfectly edible foods being wasted when they could, in fact, feed families.

Thankfully, there are organisations such as Foodeez that buy up these “obsolete” products and resell them at a much-reduced rate. Buying from such a retailer, however, either requires economic necessity or the adoption of a mentality around food that’s extremely hard to reconcile having grown up with a system based on impermanence.

Another solution is mainstream adaptation to artificial foods. In layman’s terms, artificial foods are lab-made products engineered using basic nutrients and flavour profiling. The artificial meat industry (“cultured meat”) already exists and is currently thriving as a novelty, served in expensive restaurants and wealthy homes. The potential of cultured meat as a mainstream product, however, is vast – offering truly affordable, sustainable access to protein that’s not associated with deforestation and habitat destruction for grazing land.

Visions of a Circular Future

Thinking beyond meat, we imagine a future where this can be done for all food items. Where meat, fruit, vegetables, grain, and legumes, can be grown from their chemicals, instead of over-relying on agricultural output. Going even further still, imagine if said nutrients could be extracted from existing food – be it leftovers or expired meals – to be reconstituted as fresh and nutritious foods.

This would not only spell the end of food waste but provide a lasting, positive solution to the issue of hunger around the world.

The Circular Future of Construction:

A little-known fact is that the landfills are mostly comprised of construction waste, such as bricks, concrete, tiles, metal and wood. Finding ways to repurpose these materials is crucial for sustainable development.

People have found a reusing to be a solution to property development pitfalls. This construction approach involves products not intended for construction. We see this sort of ingenuity in informal settlements across the country, but we also see it with recent innovations like container homes. Many people utilise old shipping containers for all manner of building as they’re cheap, structurally sound, relatively modular, and durable. The problem with containers however, is they’re only available in set sizes, offering few options with regard to room layout. And though weather proof enough for intercontinental journeys, containers will also eventually rust, making them a poor long-term option for homeowners.

Visions of a Circular Future

Recycling could be a crucial part of construction if the technology to convert rubble back into base building materials existed. This tech would produce high-quality materials that could be used in construction projects, making for an eco-friendly and cost-effective solution. More importantly, this would keep rubble out of landfills, minimising the compound environmental impact of construction projects.

Another technology that has the potential to revolutionise construction practices is 3D printing. This technology could be used to create template housing, which is a faster and more efficient way of building homes. It allows for the creation of unique designs and structures, significantly transforming the real estate, property development, and logistics industries. It would also significantly reduce waste and improve the efficiency of the construction process.

The Circular Future of Energy:

As traditional energy sources have caused irreversible damage, it is now more important than ever to shift towards renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydroelectric power. However, the transition to renewable energy sources is not without its challenges.

One of the biggest obstacles is our reliance on non-circular batteries, which pose a significant challenge to the transition. Batteries are the basis of any renewable application but even lithium-iron-phosphate (or LifePO4) batteries – which are now the industry standard – have a life of only a few thousand cycles or so. That’s about 5 years of constantly draining and recharging batteries under load-shedding conditions before batteries need to be replaced in the system. This is a reasonably long-term energy solution, but comes with its own set of unique caveats.

More and more homes have turned to solar and/or inverter power thanks to load-shedding. Once depleted, these batteries will pose a compounded sustainability problem by the turn of the current decade as thousands will need to be disposed of. Even with battery technology improving rapidly as batteries for electric cars are being standardised, how many existing batteries in operation aren’t recyclable at all? Was recyclability even a factor for the homeowners and businesses who fitted them?

Visions of a Circular Future

We see a future where renewable energy is stored in safe, recyclable enclosures that utilise clean, environmentally friendly chemicals to do the job. The batteries we envision will be based on the cleanest, most abundant element in the universe – hydrogen – and compressed into such compact forms that the cells will be pocketable and universally compatible – from computers to cars. Charged by sun, wind, or running water, these batteries will have useable cycles over several lifetimes, and be 100% recyclable back into batteries once depleted.


The circular future presents a transformative vision for industries worldwide, where innovation, sustainability, and circular design principles intersect to create a more resilient and eco-conscious global landscape. By adopting a circular approach, we can rethink the way we produce, consume, and dispose of products, ultimately creating a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

In a circular economy, waste is minimised through reuse, recycling and regeneration, and materials are kept in use for as long as possible. This approach not only reduces the environmental impact of production and consumption but also creates new business opportunities and economic growth. We want to see companies design products with end-of-life considerations in mind, enabling them to recover materials and components at the end of their useful life and use those as inputs for new products.

Moreover, the circular economy offers a unique opportunity to address some of the world's most pressing challenges, including climate change, resource scarcity, and social inequality. By adopting a circular approach, we can reduce our reliance on finite resources, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and create new jobs and opportunities.

By adopting circular principles, we can pave the way for a more resilient and eco-conscious global landscape, benefiting both humanity and the planet. The circular economy is inclusive, and it offers industries worldwide the opportunity to reimagine products, processes, and systems, and create a more sustainable and prosperous future for all.

The Circular Future starts with recycling. So, get in contact and start recycling today.

Happy Global Recycling Day.

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