How a circular economy works

Today's global consumption consumes more resources than are available. The principle of a circular economy counteracts this and pursues the goal of reducing the consumption of resources and using materials as efficiently and for as long as possible, in closed cycles.

The butterfly diagram illustrates, in simple terms, the complex interdependencies of a circular economy. In the organic cycle, products are composed such that their materials fully degrade into organic base materials in the natural environment. In the technical cycle, as a first priority the aim is to design products with longevity and to repair and reuse them and, after their use, repurpose their individual components for new products. If this is not possible, the materials are recycled. Thus the circular economy goes well beyond simply recycling materials.

Circular economy strategy

We are a member of the Circular Economy Switzerland network and have reinforced our commitment to promoting the circular economy by signing the Circular Economy Switzerland Charter.

With our "Circular economy strategy", we are systematically implementing measures and projects throughout the Coop Group to promote the circular economy. Products, waste and reusable materials as well as real estate are being analysed and their potential to close material cycles ascertained. As part of our multi-year sustainability targets for the period 2022 to 2026, the focus is on recyclable packaging and the sophisticated recycling of industrial sidestreams. In our Policy Paper on the circular economy we explain our stance on the subject in concise and transparent terms.

Our projects in the field of circular economy

We are committed to promoting the circular economy in various segments of our business, and we are getting behind organizations and companies that act as positive role models. We want to drive the circular economy forward in all areas, from production and purchasing to real estate and logistics. New projects are constantly being launched in which we assess various ways of closing or slowing down our cycles.  

Closing material cycles: insect protein, organic speciality mushrooms and fertilizer

Through the innovative pilot project at Swissmill, we are aiming to close cycles in the area of grain production. Each year, the production facility generates around 50,000 tonnes of milling by-products. Rather than simply using these by-products as animal feed, we have set out to find innovative solutions and alternatives. As a result of the pilot project "Zoí", we are now able to produce high-quality insect protein for food. The project uses the milling by-products to feed the insects.

Another alternative is to use milling by-products as a growth medium for our organic speciality mushrooms, thus reducing waste while also using fewer raw materials. Once the mushrooms have been picked, we process the milling by-products to make organic fertilizer that is then sold at Coop Building & Hobby.  

Logistics cycles: reusable packaging for fresh products

To avoid the waste of transport packaging for fresh produce, we employ reusable solutions in our logistics activities. Each day, around 280,000 of our reusable containers – containing products such as vegetables, fish or bread – are in circulation. When the products have been delivered to sales outlets, we return the containers to the distribution centre and clean them ready for the next delivery. This eliminates the need for single-use transport packaging made from cardboard, wood or polystyrene, while also closing the loop, since broken containers can be recycled to make new ones.