Recover: Incinerate the materials with energy recovery | Annie Clementine

Why is clean tech important to the circular economy?

Annie Clementine
3 min readMay 16, 2022


This post is part of our ‘Ten Circular Design Principles Series’. In our last post, we explored the principle of ‘Refuse’ and shared five companies that have introduced sustainable, circular alternatives to plastic.

Today, we’re taking a closer look into the ‘Recover’ principle of circular design. For those of you who are just joining our circular journey, the ten principles have been created by the work of the City of Amsterdam, as part of their Circular City Strategy. We are taking a deeper look into circular design from the lens of the consumer, choosing to challenge the traditional linear model, and view waste as a resource. If you’ve been following along for a while now, you’ve probably realized that many of these circular principles are overlapping. This is an important realization, because it’s a helpful reminder that you or any business looking to become circular, does not need to stick to just one method. In fact, we recommend combining as many as possible to expedite your journey of designing a fully circular supply chain.

Recover: Incinerate the materials with energy recovery.

Alternatively, an easier way to remember this principle:

WTE= Waste to Energy

Consider that the circular model is the kid on the playground who stands out for being open, friendly, and happy to share. There are many models and industries that work in concert with the circular economy to expedite the steps necessary in building a sustainable future. In our ‘Rethink’ post, we discussed the sharing economy. Today, we’ll look at the clean tech sector.

The basis of the circular economy is strongly founded on materials recovery, and ultimately, the rejection of a linear economy. This is where the clean tech sector swoops in and has introduced a number of new business innovations that help communities become leaders in sustainability with new ways to divert their trash into clean energy.

What exactly does “clean tech” mean? (Hint: We’re not talking about scrubbing our macbooks down.)

Clean tech, as defined by Clean Edge, a clean tech research firm is:

“a wide selection of products, procedures, and services that harness sources of renewable energy to reduce or eliminate wastes and emissions and significantly minimize the utilization of natural resources”

Pretty significant, right? While clean tech businesses aren’t often viewed as “sexy” (a point we would argue..), they are the backbone to making circular brands, economies and communities even more successful in designing closed-loop models. They are the companies that partner with the so-called “sexy” circular, customer facing brands, and ensure they are maximizing their supply chains from start to end, over and over.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the Canadian clean tech company, Enerkem. The Enerkem technology converts non-recyclable garbage into cellulosic ethanol, bio methanol and renewable chemicals.

“Our technology uses waste materials normally destined to landfill or incineration, such as textiles, non-recyclable plastics, wood residues, or soiled food containers”- Enerkem

We’re firm believers in powerful visuals, and below paints a clear picture of how Enerkem is playing a big role in leading the path towards a fully circular economy:

Source: Enerkem Circular Economy

We hope this post was helpful and has inspired you to play your role in designing a circular world. If you know of circular companies and brands that deserve a mention in one of our future posts, don’t be a stranger! We’re on this journey to play our own small role in transitioning towards a fully circular future.