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Small bars and restaurants adopt Circular Economy practices in Brazil

By Betini Comunica

When it comes to sustainable practices in business, owners of small bars and restaurants set environmentally responsible examples. According to the Circular Economy Diagnosis 2023, a study by Abrasel (Brazilian Association of Bars and Restaurants) in partnership with Sebrae, smaller bars and restaurants (MEI, ME, and EPP) were the most highly rated in sustainable management practices ranging from waste reduction, conscientious resource use, to waste reuse. The reason behind this is cost reduction.

In a survey conducted with a thousand business owners from across Brazil, just under half (48%) said that the motivation to adopt circular practices is intrinsic, far surpassing the influence of customers (20%), partner demands (12%), suppliers (11%), or investors (11%).

According to Edson Grandisoli, pedagogical coordinator of Circular Movement, the research reveals that Circular Economy is part of entrepreneurial culture because the concept is already applied in the personal lives of entrepreneurs. “There's a blend of mentality that is part of both personal and business principles. But we have to look at the results of circular practices, as they show that being more sustainable doesn't always mean increasing expenses; quite the contrary. In the case of bars and restaurants, it's closely related to operating cost reduction, which shows that it's possible to combine sustainability with economic efficiency, inspiring other sectors to do the same.

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For small entrepreneurs, reducing costs is something that is part of their lives and is applied for the success of their businesses. Image: Freepik/Reproduction.

A lot of organic waste

Among the circular practices highlighted by Edson is waste management, such as replacing disposable products with durable ones and using all parts of food in recipes. "On average, 50% of the waste produced in the daily operations of restaurants is organic. And when you give a different destination to common waste, you're engaging in a dialogue with the Circular Economy."

Waste composting is also a highlighted practice. For a restaurant, an electric composter (which turns waste into biogas) can be an interesting investment, adds the coordinator. "Of course, we have to consider the investment capacity of restaurants for this technology. But it's in rapid development, and depending on the scale of biogas produced, it can be used to generate energy. We hope it becomes accessible soon."

An average of 50% of the waste produced in the daily operation of restaurants is organic. Image: Freepik/Reproduction.

Circular tips

For bars and restaurants wishing to adopt circular practices, Edson gives some tips:

1) Get Informed

The first step is to understand the concepts of Circular Economy and how they apply to the business. Besides theory, it's advisable to gather information from partners, suppliers, and everyone involved in circularity, said Edson. "It's about talking to people, understanding what they're doing, why, and what the short, medium, and long-term payoffs are. This is possible in the Circular Academy course. It's free, and everyone can access it."

2) Evaluate Adaptations

Once you understand the ideas of circularity, the next step is to make possible adaptations to the circular model. Everything can be included, from management and operational improvements to supplier relationships. Some examples include rainwater harvesting for reuse, using all parts of food on the menu, and combating waste.

3) Choose Circularity

As much as possible, give preference to circular partners. As Edson observes, circularity is about choices, like seeking a local supplier of ecologically produced vegetables. "It might be a bit more expensive, so it's important to assess the financial aspect. But by choosing a local agroecological partner, you stop bringing in food from another municipality, for example, and you support another circular business."

4) Share Values

One of the principles of circularity is creating a chain of co-responsibility, which includes the business, suppliers, customers, and investors. For this, it's necessary to frequently share ideas and values with all ecosystem participants, emphasizes Edson. "The principle of this chain is never to be alone. It's necessary to share the circularity perspective, information, and new practices with everyone: customers, suppliers, and even employees. It's not enough to have people working in a circular business who don't understand why that process is being carried out. It's important to train aware employees not only for the activity but for society and seek partners who follow circular values."

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Circularity can be an ally in the success of the business. Image: Freepik/Reproduction.

About Edson Grandisoli

Pedagogical Coordinator of the Circular Movement, holds a Master's in Ecology, a Doctorate in Education and Sustainability from the University of São Paulo (USP), and a Post-Doctorate from the Global Cities Program (IEA-USP).

About Circular Academy

Providing relevant and free information and encouraging the adoption of new habits to reduce waste production are the objectives of the "Introduction to Circular Economy" course from the Circular Academy. The platform is intended for teachers, students, and anyone who wants to learn about Circular Economy and how to create a world without waste. The introductory course explains what circular economy is and how it can be applied in everyday life. Plastic, food, transportation, and new ways of thinking and doing are some of the topics covered in the classes.

About Circular Movement

Founded in 2020, the Circular Movement is a collaborative ecosystem dedicated to promoting the transition from a linear to a circular economy. The idea that every resource can be reused and transformed is the motto of Circular Economy, the movement's fundamental concept. The Circular Movement is an open initiative that promotes collaborative spaces with the aim of informing people and institutions that a waste-free future is possible through education and culture, the adoption of new behaviors, inclusion, and the development of new processes, products, and attitudes. The work is carried out in partnership with Dow, a chemical, plastics, and agricultural products company based in Michigan, USA. The Circular Movement currently impacts 2 million people through its activations and content.

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