What is Circularity and How Does it Apply To Fleets?

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “circularity” or “circular economy” and wondered if your work has anything to do with it. For those of us connected to the renewable fuels industry, the answer is clearly yes.

Following is a widely accepted definition of a circular economy: a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling materials and products as long as possible with the aim to tackle global challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution.

This concept has been around since at least the late 1970s but has only taken off in recent years as the impacts of climate change grow more obvious and pressing.

So what does that have to do with biodiesel?

Well, biodiesel production contributes to the circular economy by converting oils and fats — frequently considered waste byproducts from other industries — into a high-quality, cleaner-burning fuel that can be used in any diesel engine and provides strong performance and lower emissions.

Rather than the traditional approach of take-make-waste, circularity has a make-use-reuse-recycle sequence. By using renewable feedstocks like used oils or fats, biodiesel gives them new life as a cleaner fuel.

Used cooking oil is a great example. This is the yellow grease (like French fry oil) that comes from restaurants and other food production sites. In the past, it would be sent to a landfill and that would be the end of its lifecycle. Now, it can be recycled into an alternative fuel that powers one of the country’s biggest industrial segments, transportation. The fuel often gets used in trucks that deliver to the same restaurants that generated the grease in the first place, completing the cycle.

This process also explains why biodiesel has such low lifecycle emissions — it’s no longer just about the emissions that come out of a tailpipe. It’s about accounting for every step in the production and consumption of the fuel, from the source material to the production process to the transportation of the fuel to terminals and retail locations to its use in the vehicles.

Fossil fuels cannot be part of a sustainable, circular economy since they are not made from renewable products, and they contribute a substantial amount of carbon to the atmosphere.

To learn more about circularity, check out our recent case study. And as always, feel free to contact us with questions or to get started with renewable fuels today.