In an increasingly populated and industrialized world, production and consumption continue to grow exponentially. Most of this production and consumption still happens in a linear way: we acquire resources and materials, process these into products, which then find their way into the markets, and, after using them, we just discard them. Some products we only use once, by design. Very convenient, of course. Other products have short economic life spans, as innovation drives consumers towards newer models, and are just not designed and built to last. Such as for example mobile phones. Our oceans are highly polluted and absorb about 10 million tons of plastic each year. In addition, 70% of recyclable or re-usable materials end up on landfills or in waste incinerators. This puts a bigger and bigger strain on the world’s natural resources.
If we want to sustain our societies with finite resources to serve growing populations, we need to think differently. Wasted products often contain valuable components or materials, that can be re-used or recycled into new products. That way we do not waste our resources, but rather give them a new life, thus closing the loop. Industry and governments are waking up to this idea of a circular economy (Fig.1), and realize it is essential for our long term sustainability to feed these secondary resources back into the economy as much as possible. Multiple examples from various industrial fields also demonstrate that it is perfectly possible to have viable business cases based on this circular principle.
However, changing old habits is never easy, especially when related to deeply engrained patterns of supply and demand in our economies that are held in place by vested interests. An innovative approach is needed, alongside a profound mentality shift. Education will be an important driver to propel these changes. And educating the young on these matters is essential to infuse future generations with new approaches and behavioral patterns to build a sustainable society.
When Incredible Production House came to us in the Fall of 2017 with the idea of a new animated series on recycling for kids, we responded with enthusiasm. We decided to partner with them and Living Stone, both Belgian companies, to develop and co-produce this project. The series is named “The Recyclables" and aimed at helping children and parents to care about recycling, by using engaging original characters in fun and informative stories. This series will educate children and inspire them to look at waste in a different way, and help them understand that recyclable materials are valuable. The featured characters serve as role models that promote sound recycling behavior and strategies, while encouraging a young audience to personally identify with the idea of recycling.
The series is currently in development, and 26 episodes of 6 minutes each are scheduled to be available by end of 2019.