The Circular Journey: Q&A with Circular&Co’s Founder Dan Dicker
Last week on International Coffee Day, we started an experiment (link to the previous article) to see if we can get our staff to start using reusable coffee cups instead of single-use disposable cups, and learn more about the environmental impact of the coffee industry. We have the honor to invite Dan Dicker, the Founder & CEO of Circular&Co for a quick Q&A session to tell us more about the company and its mission to inspire and drive sustainability throughout our everyday lives.
► Could you provide our readers with a brief introduction to Circular&Co? We are a small group of 20 like-minded people based on the north coast of Cornwall in the UK, striving to drive global change by making Circular Design the new standard. I founded Circular from a garden shed in 2003 with one clear aim; to end waste – And as such, the products we design need to be made from waste. My time spent as a designer for Dyson truly highlighted how the industry wasn’t utilizing waste materials and I quickly spotted an opportunity to do things differently.
The plan was to extend the life of waste materials and use them to create products that last as long as possible, and fundamentally at the end of their lives, these products need to be recyclable so that the cycle can continue. Since then, we’ve moved out of the garden shed and our Circular products are now available across the globe. Today we advise, develop, and deliver Circular product solutions for leading brands worldwide, reinventing today’s waste for tomorrow’s products.
► Tell us something more about your products. We create products made with recycled materials, designed to last and be fully recyclable. We work to a simple yet immensely challenging rule of 100-10-100. Any product created can only be justified if it’s trying to or helping to achieve 100% recycled content, designed for at least 10 years use and then 100% recyclable at the end of its useful life. Our 100-10-100 rule is extremely challenging, with some key barriers to success. However, if industry doesn’t push the boundaries, and take steps to get closer to it, then nothing will change. Small steps forward, consistently, will help us all learn and grow. With commitment and innovation, we will get there.
► Why is Circular Design important and what does it entail? Circular Design is the key to a sustainable future, it will literally save the world! By using waste materials to make new products that are then fully recyclable, we can reuse the same materials over and over, closing the circle. This drastically reduces CO2 emissions, stops consumption of the planet’s precious resources, and eliminates pollution.
► Do you have any new products in the pipeline? Yes, lots, that’s what we do! That’s what we enjoy. Only 5% of individuals actively use reusable cups so we are busy developing a ‘returnable’ cup model and packaging that allows you to borrow a cup, use it and then hand it back. To engage the other 95% of the population we are constantly striving to come up with new products and models that will increase engagement and change old habits.
► We know that Circular&Co brought production back to the UK in 2020 to minimize carbon footprint and stimulate the local economy. What are the challenges you’ve faced since, and how do you cope with them? Our aim is to always produce products within the tightest regional area possible. Interestingly since COVID-19, and the water and energy price increase that has become increasingly difficult. As we’ve grown our global reach, we actively looked to set up production across the world which is now really helping, it controls cost and allows us to distribute products locally.
► We’ve seen you work with coffee giants like Starbucks, Costa Coffee and Caffè Nero to produce customized reusable cups for them in the past few years. Could you tell us more about the collaborations? We believe the only way a small design company in Cornwall can create real change is to partner with bigger brands, we term it here as ‘scale for good’. Our biggest impact has been through the work we’ve done with companies that have that scale to make a big difference.
► Are there any ongoing collaborations we can expect this year? The ‘&Co’ within Circular&Co. stands for collaboration, it’s the only way we can create real change and promote Circularity globally. We have lots of exciting business, organization, and community groups we are teaming up with in 2023. All with one aim, the promote, activate, and make Circular Design the new standard.
► What does the future of Circular&Co look like? Circular design will and is saving the world, so pretty hopeful! After nearly 20 years at the coal face and banging the drum for Circularity it’s finally gaining traction. We are busier than we have ever been but much more importantly the busier Circular companies are the quicker we will save the world.
Follow Circular&Co on Facebook and Instagram to learn more about the impact of their award-winning reusable coffee cups and the mastermind behind Circular Design.