“The price of a new purchase does not reflect the true cost of the product”
Swiss Post wants to develop a resilient infrastructure and facilitate a genuine circular economy by offering innovative services. Raphael Fasko, Head of Rytec Circular, a leading Swiss competence center for applied circular economy, is supporting the company in this endeavour.
Is the circular economy more than mere recycling?
Yes. We achieve the greatest benefit for the environment if we close “inner product cycles” – which means repairing and reusing products; not just throwing them away, but handing them on. When that’s no longer an option, products or components can be reconditioned and modernized. This also creates major economic opportunities for companies. Only once these inner product cycles have been exhausted should a product be completely dismantled and the materials separated and recycled.
In the field of recycling, Switzerland is in good shape. To what extent has it embraced the circular economy?
I think that Switzerland still has potential to explore. Our high wage costs make repairs relatively expensive. And we often purchase new products unnecessarily early. Other countries exhaust the lifespan of their products to a much greater extent. We are also among the top ten waste producers per capita worldwide.
Which sectors or products offer particularly strong potential in the circular economy or are already on the right track?
The automobile sector is particularly advanced. Remanufacturing of components has been established in the industry for decades. Lucrative opportunities for circular models can also be seen in expensive investment goods such as furniture or IT equipment. In these sectors, there are already highly interesting solutions such as products as a service and reconditioning or reuse of products.
How can consumers participate directly in the circular economy?
Each and every one of us can make a contribution by giving products a second lease of life and repairing, reusing or reselling them. Let’s be honest: a repair might appear more expensive at first glance. But that’s only because the price of the product doesn’t cover the environmental damage caused by production. The price of a new purchase doesn’t reflect the true ecological and social cost of the product.
That means we all have to change our way of thinking.
Exactly. We can only combat the throwaway society by being prepared to pay a little more for a repair and choosing not to replace products quite as often. And how can companies encourage us to move away from the throwaway society?
One option is to offer customers their products as a long-term rental or service solution instead of for purchase, and to agree to accept product returns. This means that companies remain the owners of the products and can give them a second lease of life. It also makes good economic sense.
In what way?
This model enables companies to invest in the development of products with a longer service life and to benefit directly from additional rental years. That’s not possible in a sales model.
And what can Swiss Post do in its own operations?
Swiss Post buys and uses large quantities of products and machines. In this respect, it’s preferable to exhaust all options for keeping products in use as long as possible or for giving them a second lease of life. With regard to procurement, Swiss Post could establish criteria for product recyclability and favour providers who meet these criteria.