To understand why the circular economy is a chance to save our planet and make a better world for all of us, we need to understand what are the main differences between the circular economy and its harsh competitor – a linear economy.
The linear economy is based on a single-use principle. In other words, production and consumption include the produce, consume, and throw away principle.
Products are designed to be consumed in a fast way and this is supported by a whole business model behind it. Linear economy stands along with consumerism and mass production, fast fashion, and excessive use of raw materials. In a world with unlimited resources and unlimited capacities to absorb pollution and waste, a linear economy could function perfectly. But, available resources are certainly not unlimited and the Earth is already tired of all the waste and pollution we are producing.
Where can we find a solution to this problem?
The first thing that comes to our minds is recycling. Recycling makes us all feel good about ourselves. “I recycle, I take care of the environment.” Is this really the case? Is recycling enough or we need to take a step further?
No. Recycling is definitely not enough. Recycling is, in a way, a trap, especially for the efforts to understand the circular economy, because these two ideas are often wrongfully equalized. Since recycling is not enough, that means that taking a step further is a must. And what is the step further? The answer lays in the circular economy.
The so-called reuse economy in which recycling is in the focus, and that is probably the predominant model nowadays, is just a transition between linear economy and circular economy. While a chunk of products can be recycled, tons of them are going to end up as waste, forever. All the materials, energy, and work embedded in those products are lost, forever.
That means that we need to deal with a huge amount of non-recyclable products. But there is something that can be done before those products come to light. We need to change the way we see products and the way we consume them. One of the essential parts of a circular economy is product design. Product design is so important because of one simple reason – up to 80% of products’ environmental impact is determined in the design stage. In other words – we cannot avoid most of the harm that has already been made in the product design stage.
We need new products that will be made in line with the principles of the circular economy. Recyclability is not their only desirable characteristics. These products should fit new and improved business models. They should be made in a way that allows shared consumption, reuse, upcycling, recycling, etc. This is a big playfield for innovations and profits for creative firms and other players.
The ultimate goal of the circular economy is the development of a society in which the production of waste is lowered to its minimum with a high level of reusability coming from a combination of eco-design and new business models, including renting, repairing, and reusing, on one side and new recycling technologies on the other side.
What do you think about going circular?
If you are interested to find out more about the circular economy, its features, and benefits, as well as the ways in which you can help your local community to go towards circularity, join us on this journey and spin the world together with us. In the following weeks, we will be exploring different aspects of the circular economy and we want you to tell us what you would like to talk about.
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