Intro to Circular Economy

Linear Economy vs Circular Economy

Today, economic growth is driven by profit generating companies based on linear business models. Making profits is not necessarily bad, however, the way profits are made are negatively impacting our environment and society. 

Linear business models are based on the following logic: take natural resources, make products for consumers that eventually become waste. Circular business models contribute to a circular economy by adhering to the circular economy’s three fundamental principles.

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use 
  • Regenerate natural systems

Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. All "waste" should become "food" for another process: either a by-product or recovered resource for another industrial process or as regenerative resources for nature (e.g., compost). This regenerative approach is in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a "take, make, dispose" model of production. 

Thinking circular from the beginning 

Waste and pollution are not accidents, but the consequences of decision made at design stage, where around 80% of environmental impacts are determined. By changing our mindset to view waste as a design flaw and harnessing new materials and technologies, we can ensure that waste and pollution are not created in the first place. For example, creating a compostable product that needs do be shipped using styrofoam or bubble wrap is a design decision that prevents the product to be circular. Another example that we are familiar with are smartphones that cannot be easily open to have parts replaced. Design decision like this discourage repairing and make people gravitate towards a “take, make, dispose” pattern.

Your role in achieving a Circular Economy

On the other end, we have the end of life gaps getting in the way of a true circular model. Products that are design to be recyclable might never be because your council or country doesn’t have the means to do so. Or compostable products, like biodegradable disposable cutlery that we now see everywhere, keep on following a linear disposable model if never taken to a composting facility or a home compost bin.

Finally, as you can see on the last example, we consumers also play a big part on moving our society into a truly circular economy. We need to learn how to better understand the impacts of things we buy and how to responsibly dispose of them. Having eco-friendly and compostable products available is an amazing step, but as consumers, we need to make sure we have access to a composting bin to dispose of them properly. Start one at home are ask your local café or restaurant to start one. When it comes to recycling, try to buy products that are made of materials that you know can be recycled in your area, and when it’s time to dispose of them make sure you know in which bin it goes into.

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