What is The Circular Economy?
Last Updated on August 26, 2020 by Marc-Antoni
Taking The Non-Linear Approach
The circular economy, much like Mad Max‘s “Barter Town,” represents a model by which waste is not viewed as waste. Instead, it becomes a source of power or material for something else. In the case of Barter Town, it’s the pig poop that’s powering the last remnant of civilization. Due to the need for energy (oil is a thing of the past), humans have figured out how to repurpose waste for power. It’s essentially a closed-loop system.
The circular economy currently describes a pretty amazing representation of our desire to strive for zero waste. Like the natural world itself. Rather than perpetuating the conventional means of manufacturing, which is often devised for a single purpose (consumption), more attention is given to the product’s end of life, and assessed for further opportunities.
Designed for the Future
One excellent description is as follows, “the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimizing negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.” – Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
This means we can use more of what we create, more entirely, and find a better, more constructive use for what is left. Brilliant concept, for whom we have the planet to thank. Indeed, there’s so much to be learned from how nature manages things (see Biommicry).
The Circular Economy in Action
The offers up a taste of what that could look like. Good design allows for the end products to eventually feed into the supply chain of other products. In turn this perpetuates the cycle, while limiting (if not outright eliminating) its waste contribution. It’s brilliant, and it actually works!!
Searching For Change
Thankfully, we are witnessing an increasing trend in the adoption of such practices, from zero waste groceries stores, and conscientious supply chains (see also World Economic Forum), to lean green architecture powered by renewable energy. Google, Adidas, and Ikea are some leading corporate examples of adopting and transitioning towards a circular economy.
The benefits are clear and tangible. Not only does it make sense on a social-humanitarian level, but it really does reflect good management and greater efficiency. It is however a cooperative effort. No single company can accomplish this on their own, it requires collective action and commitment.
An existing example of the symbiotic practice, by which a residual product converts into a resource for another, is seen through the application of the Kalundborg Industrial Symbiosis. It’s a proven method that significantly cuts down on carbon emissions.
If you continue digging around the internet, there are plenty of other examples as well. Although they do become quite detailed & industry specific, so I’ll cut it short here and explore this issue again in future postings. I’ll also try to be as clear as I can with my tags and heading, so as to help you find what you are looking for on our own site.
This topic is a fascinating one. I’m genuinely intrigued by its application and inspired by what I see. The circular economy represents the future. It is a means by which business can continue to operate, but within the natural limitations of the environment. It is therefore the very definition of sustainability.
Moving Towards #FossilFree
Not only is it cool & cost effective, the circular economy offers us a better path forward. It’s a path we need to take. Given the rapid rate of environmental destruction and resource consumption, in time we will no longer have the choice. You can be an early adopter and innovator by incorporating this was of thinking already. I’d encourage you to keep exploring this topic and end here with a brilliant TED Talk.