We see the emerging circular economy as a major commercial opportunity for us, as well as a significant contributor to a more sustainable future. In Europe, for example, McKinsey estimates that only 5% of the value of raw materials the global economy uses is recovered through recycling. Imagine the impact if the other 95% could be recovered too.
The challenge is that it’s often easier and cheaper to throw products away and start again, rather than repair or re-use them.
This is as true of domestic appliances like washing machines as it is of components for infrastructure or construction. So what’s the solution? One answer, certainly, is for customers to rent or lease products, rather than buy them. And we’re testing the opportunity with one particular product – the sheet pile.
Sheet piles are used in construction, to provide earth or water retention in the foundations of buildings, roads, tunnels, or seawalls. Generally made from recycled scrap, they can also, like all steel products, be fully recycled, saving 1.29 tonnes of co2 for every tonne of steel made. Because of this, high-strength steel sheet piles already offer a more sustainable alternative to concrete. The lease model takes this one step further, since the sheet piles can be re-used rather than recycled once the customer has finished their construction project. It means that, rather than selling the sheet piles, we can offer our customers their availability for a period of time. It’s a win-win for everyone: a reduced short-term cost for the customer, a stream of recurrent revenue for us, and a significant benefit for the environment in the long term.