What is the Circular Economy?

The Principals of a Circular Economy

The circular economy is a way to bring our current economy and consumption habits into a more sustainable cycle. As an alternative to the traditional linear economy, in which resources and goods are produced without thought for how they will discarded or recycled after being used once or for the duration of their useful lives. In the circular economy, resources are used over and over again, recycled, upcycled or otherwise reused.

This type of economy and thought process minimizes waste of goods and resources while maximizing efficiency and is a new way of thinking about economic growth. It is based on the principle of closed-loop production, in which waste is eliminated and resources are used more efficiently by working to make sure resources aren’t just extracted, used, and then discarded.

circular economy waste
Photo by Jasmin Sessler

The circular economy is an approach to economic development that is based on the principles of sustainable development. As an alternative to the “take-make-waste” principal in a traditional linear model of economic growth, the circular economy is based on three principles. Namely, these principals include: the elimination of waste and pollution, focus on the regeneration of nature and the circulation of resources, goods and products. Luckily, the concept of a circular economy has been gaining traction in recent years as a more sustainable alternative to the traditional model of economic growth.

The benefits of a circular economy

The circular economy has many benefits. In this closed-loop system, pollution is reduced, resources are conserved, and jobs are created, ultimately boosting the economy. It is also more resilient than the linear economy, because it can continue to function even when there are disruptions in the supply chain. In this type of economy, waste is designed out, products are made to last longer and materials are reused or recycled.

A circular economy is good for the environment because it reduces waste and pollution. In a traditional linear economy, businesses dispose of products after they’re used. This results in mountains of waste and pollution. In a circular economy, businesses keep products in use for as long as possible before recycling or upcycling them.

Having businesses consider how their products can be reused or recycled and having consumers has knock on benefits as well. Businesses focusing on sustainability and making their products fit into the circular economy can also push their suppliers and their suppliers’ suppliers to in turn reduce their waste and make their products more eco-friendly as well.

One of the most significant benefits of the circular economy is that it creates jobs. In a linear economy, jobs are often lost as products reach the end of their life and are disposed of. In a circular economy, however, products are designed to be reused or recycled, meaning that there are more opportunities for employment throughout the product lifecycle.

The challenges of implementing a circular economy

The circular economy is not without its challenges. Implementing it requires a fundamental shift in our thinking about how we use resources. We must learn to value quality over quantity, and to think of products as being part of a system, not as isolated objects. But if we are willing to make this shift, the rewards will be great.

One challenge is that businesses must change the way they operate. They must move away from the linear model of take-make-waste and adopt a more sustainable business model. This can be difficult and costly for businesses.

Another challenge is that consumers must change their habits. They must learn to reuse, repair, and recycle products instead of simply throwing them away. This can be a difficult behavior change for people to make.

Finally, governments must create policies and regulations to support the circular economy. Without government support, it will be difficult for businesses and consumers to make the changes necessary to implement a circular economy.

How can we move towards a circular economy?

circular economy recycle
Photo by Marcell Viragh on Unsplash

In a linear economy, we take resources, use them to create products, and then dispose of the waste. But what if there was a different way? What if we could keep the waste and turn it back into resources?

Since 1970, global resource extraction has more than tripled. Combined with increasing greenhouse gas emissions, this paints a dire picture for us and our planet. We need to change the way we think about goods and resources, we need to change the way businesses design their products and we need to look for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle.

You may hear another term in relation to the circular economy – “cradle to cradle” instead of “cradle to grave.” Instead of looking only at resources and goods as valuable, waste is also viewed as a valuable resource that can be used to create new products. This type of economy is more sustainable than a linear economy because it doesn’t rely on virgin resources.

So how can we move towards a circular economy? There are many ways, but one key way is through product design. We need to focus on designing products that are made to be recycled or reused instead of disposed of. As consumers, we should push the companies we shop with to be more thoughtful about the products they design and sell and companies need to push their suppliers and their supply chain to be more responsible.

Conclusion

Currently, only 8.6% of the global economy is circular – the remainder of goods and products produced globally use virgin materials and resources to produce. Clearly, we have a long way to go but if we can continue to pursue and make more of our products with a circular mindset we can easily make improvements. The only way is up.

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