COVID-19 has presented one of the most staggering economic challenges in memory. As markets around the world begin to pick up pace at varying speeds, how can rental businesses across the globe ensure business sustainability? The answer is circular, and here are the 3 things rental businesses need to know now about the concept of a circular economy:
1. What is the circular economy?
For many years now, we’ve all heard the phrase “reduce – reuse – recycle”. This linear approach to the climate crisis, needs to be adapted to meet global sustainability initiatives as well as the current challenges presented by COVID.
The circular economy model is a continuous cycle, designed to be regenerative, that aims to separate growth from the consumption of finite resources. But, what does this mean? Quite simply: equipment should be built to last, reused and refurbished to increase its lifespan, and recycled rather than wasted.
Using the principles of designing out waste/pollution and keeping products and materials in use, the concept of a circular economy is being touted as both a long-term solution to sustainability, and the key to economic resilience in the mid to post-COVID economy.
2. What does this mean for rental businesses?
Reusing and repairing equipment to increase its lifespan is a familiar concept to rental businesses, so it's no surprise that rental will facilitate the transition to the circular economy.
"it manages stocks of manufactured objects with the objective to maintain their value and utility as high as possible for as long as possible"
- Walter Stahel, The Circular Economy, A User's Guide
Rental businesses are likely to keep assets over a longer period of time, and a shift into a more circular economic model is likely to create greater demand for products & equipment - which in turn will drive growth for businesses like yours.
"Product design that facilitates maintenance and repair has a positive impact on the life-cycle of the equipment and therefore contributes
to the circular economy"
- The European Rental Association
3. What are the next steps for the rental industry?
A popular model for practical application of the circular economy is known as the 7R-model of Royal HaskoningDHV. Considering how your rental business can apply its services to one/or more of the 7Rs is a great starting point. Whether it's fuel reduction through routing, or finding the best method to preserve and extend what's already been made - take a step closer to shifting to the circular economy.
- Rethink: Opt for rental! Encourage consumers and businesses to reconsider their purchasing.
- Reduce: Yes you need to reduce waste, but you also need to consider investing in equipment with low emissions. From paperless processes to telematic routing, designs built for the circular economy work with digitised processes, to reduce waste at every opportunity.
- Repair: Frequently repair and extend the life of your equipment, and keep your maintenance and certification up-to-date.
- Reuse: Don't just throw it away - use waste as a resource to reuse. Product utilisation now needs to consider re-utilisation.
- Refurbish: Combine parts of defective machines to create a working machine.
- Recycle: Depreciated equipment is disassembled and disposed of separately.
- Recover: Reclaim energy from non-recyclable materials.
Clearly, rental is intrinsic to the circular economy, which in turn is set to drive economic growth. The European Rental Association commissioned a study into the carbon footprint of construction equipment in 2019, and found that renting equipment encourages and enables efficient use and thus significantly reduces the carbon footprint.
Looking for further inspiration? Take a look at how our customer Boels are making the 7Rs work for them.
Get in touch with us to discuss how to optimise your rental business for resilience, using the 7Rs to win business!