Warning- you’ll need your thinking caps on for this short read. It's time to learn about the circular economy (if you haven’t already heard of it)!
The circular economy is, in essence, an economic system that is an alternative to the traditional, linear economy of take-make-waste. In other words, it moves away from our current, inefficient economy of hyper- consumption which leaves behind a lot of waste material, and towards a more sustainable way of consuming products. It encourages keeping resources in use for as long as possible to extract the maximum value from them, then recover/ regenerate materials or products at the end of each service life cycle.
This circular mode of production designs out the negative impacts of economic activity that cause damage to the environment and human health. This includes greenhouse gas emissions and other hazardous substances. For this to work products need to be designed for reuse, remanufacturing, recycling and durability to keep them ‘circulating’ for longer. At the same time, the circular economy serves not only to protect natural systems but also actively improve the environment. Biological materials can biodegrade and can safely re-enter the natural environment . Technical nutrients such as plastics, metals and synthetic chemicals, whilst they cannot re-enter the environment, can be continuously circulated through the industrial cycle extracting as much value as possible therefore reducing resource use, pollution and waste.
Simple tactics such as reducing, reusing and recycling for effective implementation of the circular economy aren’t enough. Businesses and individuals as a whole need to adopt transformational strategies in particular such as rethinking, reinventing , redesigning , recovering and redirecting (known as the 5Rs). These strategies are concerned with eco-effectiveness i.e. continually cycling and not discarding materials that cannot be broken down by nature.
Moving towards a circular economy can deliver benefits such as reducing pressure on the environment, decreasing the supply of raw materials, stimulating innovation, boosting economic growth and creating jobs.