Workers make consumer products from recycled chopsticks at Vancouver-baed ChopValu

Circular Economy

In Vancouver, we’re working to close the loop

What is the circular economy?

The circular economy is an economic model that extends the life cycle of products. Throughout this process, waste is eliminated through the reduction, reuse, repair, and recycling of materials to limit inefficiencies and close gaps within the system. It aims to effectively design out waste, keep materials in use longer at their highest value, and regenerate natural systems.

Circular practices help to reduce the amount of finite raw materials extracted from the earth, ensuring a more prosperous environment for future generations. Reusing materials results in a parallel reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other environmental impacts, increased innovation, and the opportunity for new revenue streams and employment opportunities.

Why is the circular economy important?

The 2022 Global Waste Index reported that Canadians disposed of 706 kg of waste per capita, with the majority of this waste ending up in landfills. This waste represents not only the harmful consequences of our current ‘take-make-waste’ system, but also enormous potential. Adopting circular practices will:

  • Enable us to meet climate targets as 45% of global emissions stem from how products are made and used and how food is produced.
  • Create economic value and opportunity by utilizing waste streams as a source of secondary resources. This will create new, localized resource streams, and generate employment opportunities related to designing, manufacturing, and processing these circular materials.
  • Design an economy that works for all, including the environments that are directly and indirectly affected by our means of production, consumption, and disposal.

What are the opportunities for businesses?

Future-proofing businesses

Due to the rising costs of materials, international supply chain disruptions, and a public and private sector demand for climate action, many businesses within resource-intensive and reliant industries are reconsidering the linear economy standard in favor of one that is resilient, place-based, and circular.

Creating meaningful, inclusive jobs

Activities that redesign, reuse, recycle and retool materials in Metro Vancouver will create revenue streams and additional jobs for all skill and income levels that support more affordable daily living while improving the region’s self-sufficiency and resilience.

Sustaining material value

One of the main benefits in adopting circularity is the opportunity to retain or add value to materials currently discarded as waste. This allows for the monetization of potential new market opportunities and cost-savings measures.

Key stats on Vancouver’s circular economy (and beyond)

Vancouver’s circular economy potential

As a port city and booming business and technology hub, the circular economy holds great potential in Vancouver, particularly in the following sectors: food, textiles, the built environment, and the sharing economy.

A preview of Q1 2022 employment data plus other graphs in the report

Food and Food Waste

Vancouver is home to numerous food rescue and distribution organizations, services and non-profits. Addressing food loss and waste within operations can increase a business’s financial performance by 10%.


Approximately 22,000 tonnes of apparel end up in the Greater Vancouver landfill every year, 95% of which can be reused, repaired or recycled. Local Circular fashion and apparel businesses are working to change that number.


Built Environment

More than 780 residences suited to deconstruction are instead demolished each year in Metro Vancouver – a waste of material worth approximately $340 million annually.


Sharing Economy

Vancouver is home to several sharing economy business models, such as car-sharing, equipment rental, and reusable container platforms that strive to curb the 441 million single-use cups and containers that end up in the Greater Vancouver landfill per year.


What’s driving the circular economy in Vancouver?

Volatile markets, increasing consumer demand, and government regulations are driving uptake of the circular economy in Vancouver and across Canada. In response, many services are being created in our region that incubate and accelerate circular economy innovations.

Mitigating Business Risk

Adopting circular economy strategies serves to risk-proof businesses and increase their economic resilience in the face of shocks and stressors, supply chain disruptions, and economic volatility. In a circular economy, businesses tend to retain the value of their investments, and therefore retain more control over the management of those assets.

For example, the product-as-a-service (PaaS) business model generates revenue by leasing products to consumers and recovering the product when the lease term is up. PaaS provides the business with greater ability to forecast demand, increased customer loyalty, and cradle-to-cradle value retention.

Consumer Interest

Consumer movements like slow fashion, organizations like Share Reuse Repair Initiative, and campaigns like Love Food, Hate Waste are all educating consumers on the true value of materials while providing alternatives to wasteful mainstream products and practices.

Government Regulations and Policies

Governments are updating waste and production regulations and creating new policies that support growth of the circular economy. City of Vancouver and Province of BC have announced intentions to create circular economy strategies for the municipal and provincial jurisdictions, respectively, and the Government of Canada offers circular economy grants and incentives.

Incubators and Accelerators

New services and networks for circular entrepreneurs are being created in and around Vancouver to assist businesses and innovators with new circular business ideas and to help existing businesses adopt circular practices. For example, Project Zero’s incubator program provides eight months of business training for new circular ventures, and the University of British Columbia’s Materials and Manufacturing Research Institute provides Circular Economy Seed Funding.

Our circular economy in action

The concept of circularity has been around for a long time – it refers to the timeless practice of making the best use of objects and materials by sharing, repairing, maintaining, and repurposing what we already have. Some of the best teachers and models of this work are our First Nations and other Indigenous neighbours and partners, who have been living and practicing reciprocal and regenerative ways of knowing and stewardship of the land since time immemorial.

Farmers markets, second hand stores and platforms, repair shops, and refill-eries are also all perfect examples of the circular economy in action.

There are a growing number of businesses modeling the modern, circular economy that are acting in response to the current systems that produce unrecovered waste in order to create more value and opportunity, and below are a few local examples:

Trendi logo


Trendi uses innovative food waste solutions to help the farm and food industry by upcycling the organic food waste into delicious and nutritional products.
Susgrainable logo


Susgrainable Vancouver creates upcycled baking mixes and barley flour from brewers spent grain that are high in plant-based protein and fibre.
Fabcycle logo


FABCYCLE works directly with local apparel manufacturers to collect the scraps, off-cuts, deadstock and ends of rolls so that they can be reuses or recycled.
Debrand logo


Debrand is an expert in Reverse Logistics and textile recycling serving apparel brands all over North America.
Mangrove Lithium logo

Mangrove Lithium

Mangrove’s patent-pending proprietary technology converts lithium chloride or lithium sulfate from a wider pool of feedstocks into high purity lithium hydroxide or carbonate.
Quadrogen logo


Quadrogen provides innovative and engineered solutions to serve our customers in the markets of customized biogas cleanup and upgrading plants, hydrogen purification systems, and carbon capture equipment.
ChopValue logo


Using recycled chopsticks, ChopValue creates stunning, high-performance office furniture, home decor, kitchen accessories and games.
ShareWares logo


Looking for alternatives to disposable items? ShareWares is a citywide borrowing platform that offers Vancouver businesses a reusable cup-share program.
Unbuilders logo


Unbuilder's skilled crew of carpenters deconstruct buildings layer by layer and maximizes the salvage potential and minimize the waste through on-site material separation.
Renewal Home Development logo

Renewal Home Development

Renewal Home Development saves homes with good bones from being demolished by relocating the homes to new properties and extending their life for new owners.
Anaconda Systems logo

Anaconda Systems

Anaconda Systems is a leader in designing and implementing safe and reliable organic waste management systems that help cities and companies improve the economic impact of their waste handling infrastructure.
West Coast Reduction Logo

West Coast Reduction

West Coast Reduction creates safe, environmentally friendly recycling solutions for farms, feedlots, restaurants, butcher shops and supermarkets that all produce by-products that have nowhere to go.

Circular economy jobs and training

Within Vancouver there has been an 87% increase in green jobs from 2010–2020, with green building design and construction and materials management and recycling experiencing the strongest growth.

According to Circle Economy, a variety of jobs play a key role in the transition to a circular economy:

  • Core circular jobs: ensure raw material cycles are closed, such as jobs in renewable energy, repair, and waste management
  • Enabling circular jobs: enable the acceleration and upscaling of core circular activities, such as engineering, manufacturing, design, leasing, and digital technology
  • Indirect circular jobs: provide services to primary circular activities, and include positions in education, logistics, and the public sector

Circular Economy Training opportunities in Greater Vancouver region



VEC programs, research and resources for the circular economy

VEC continues to develop impactful programs and events that assist Vancouver’s business community to transition to a circular economy. Here are a few examples.

Calls for Innovation

Project Greenlight

A network of large asset holders such as municipalities, utilities and developers work with entrepreneurs and innovators to use these assets to test solutions to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, energy use and waste – accelerating the transition to a clean economy.

➔ Learn more

Training Program

Circular Economy Network

The Greater Vancouver Circular Economy Network is activated through a variety of webinars, events, and trainings through a partnership between VEC, SSRI and Vancity. The network aims build a strong community of circular practitioners.

➔ Learn more

Systems Thinking

Circular Food Innovation Lab

The Circular Food Innovation Lab employed a collaborative system design with food sector businesses to reduce food waste and drive circular innovation in the sector.

➔ Learn more

Circular Economy Events in Canada and Vancouver

November 1-2, 2023

Zero Waste Conference

This annual conference brings together business leaders, community innovators, and policy makers who understand the value of a circular economy to help create a future without waste.

➔ Learn more

Looking for more resources?

Are you looking to implement more circular practices in your business? Would you like to connect with or take inspiration from other companies tackling similar challenges? We’ve compiled a handy list of recent research, resources and networks for your perusal. Go to the circular economy business resources list.

Get in touch