How can a circular economy tackle the growing issue with plastic waste?

We are living in a world filled with plastic from land to sea, up in the mountains and in arctic sea ice. Every year, over 280 million tons of plastic is produced, with the majority being single-use plastic, only 9% gets recycled, and around 11 million metric tons ends up in the ocean as plastic waste. Ever since the rise in production of plastic, over 8.3 billion metric tons have been made. Of this growing number, 6.3 billion metric tons has become plastic waste – 79% sitting in landfills or ending up in the natural environment, further polluting our planet.

Most of this plastic waste comes from plastic packaging that cannot be reused or recycled, and will remain in landfills and our environment for over 400 years until they degrade. The majority –  8 million tonnes –  leaks into the ocean every year, causing harm to marine species and ecosystems while further destroying our climate and natural environment. If we don’t act now, the annual flow of plastic into the ocean could nearly triple by 2040, and by 2050, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish.


“Preventing the vast majority of plastic from entering the ocean requires reducing plastic use, finding substitutes for plastics, improving recycling practices, expanding waste collection, and ensuring that disposal facilities prevent plastic leakage as a transitional measure.”
The Pew Charitable Trusts

In order to prevent plastic from entering the ocean, we must rethink our relationship with plastic and come up with solutions that are both attainable and sustainable in the long-run.

The circular economy vs. plastic waste 

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation defines the circular economy to be “an economic system in which materials are designed to be used, not used up. From the outset, products and the systems they sit within should be designed to ensure no materials are lost, no toxins are leaked, and the maximum use is achieved from every process, material, and component. If applied correctly, the circular economy benefits society, the environment, and the economy.”

Every stage of a product’s journey, from design planning to post-production and post-use, is carefully considered and executed so that resources and materials can be reused and regenerated rather than becoming waste that harms our planet.

Through this approach, by 2040, we have the potential to reduce the annual volume of plastics entering the ocean by 80%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25%, generate savings of $200 billion USD per year, and create 700,000 net additional jobs altogether. However, if we fail to act now and make the necessary changes as consumers, corporations, and policymakers, we will be facing further consequences that, many already, are irreversible.

Three key points that are required to create a circular economy for plastic: 

  1. Eliminate – Reduce the amount of virgin plastic being produced
  2. Innovate – It is impossible to fully eliminate all plastics, therefore we must ensure that the plastics we do need are reusable, recyclable, or compostable. Implementing reuse models and utilizing reusable alternatives instead of single-use plastics helps save money and the planet.
  3. Circulate – All plastic items are to be regenerated through the development of a system that includes collecting and sorting, breakdown processes, and rebuilding of materials so that they remain circulating in the economy and out of the environment. 


Other solutions for reducing and eliminating plastic waste include: hosting or joining bleach clean-ups, banning single-use plastic and replacing them with other reusable materials, bringing your own reusable bags, straws, utensils, etc., getting rid of unnecessary plastic packaging, and finding ways to upcycle.

Koup vs. plastic waste 

Our Koup t-shirts and base layers are made with mono-materials, meaning that they are composed of just one single material – recycled polyester – making them 100% recyclable. Our goal is to reduce plastic waste that is already in the environment and stop new plastics from ending up in landfills, incinerators, or the ocean. Only 14% of plastic is collected for recycling, 30% of plastic packaging will never be reused or recycled, and in total 91% of plastic is not being recycled at all. 

By using 100% recycled plastic over virgin plastic, we not only prevent more plastic from ending up as waste but also save up to 58% in energy and 45% in greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, a circular economy allows materials to be in continuous circulation, without needing to extract new resources from our planet while those already produced don’t go to waste. 

Since a circular economy considers the before, during, and after of a product’s life, it ensures that the end of a product can and will become materials for future products. Our t-shirts are designed with this very model in mind– able to be recycled into new materials for future products again and again.

In regards to packaging, we don’t use any unnecessary plastics. Instead, we turn the leftover fabric from the production of our clothes into individual pouches for the shirts. Textile waste is reduced and your shirt gets a travel-friendly and compact home– similar to the size of a pair of rolled socks!


“Year on year, millions of tonnes of plastic, worth billions of dollars, ends up in landfills, is burned, or leaked into the environment. A staggering 8 million tonnes leaks into the ocean every year — and that number is rising.”
Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Our current linear economy continues to take from our planet’s finite resources, and quickly tosses them away after a few uses, sometimes just one single use, without any way of reusing or recycling these materials. This model is not sustainable for our planet, and we are witnessing the consequences in the form of climate change, global warming, water pollution, rising sea levels, wildfires, and many more. Change needs to be implemented on a large and systemic scale if we want to see a difference and restore our earth. As individuals, it all starts with being aware of the problem and taking small steps and making small changes in our everyday lives to become more conscious and sustainable.

Check out 10 simple tips on reducing plastic waste in our everyday lives and 8 ways you can start embracing a circular lifestyle!

We are all part of the problem, but we can all be part of the solution too. There is more than enough plastic being produced, now it’s time we focus on reducing the production and need for single-use plastics and implementing circularity into the way we think, design, and live.



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