The Basics Collection: A Circular Economy

When browsing the web for educational information about the topic of sustainability you may have come across  unfamiliar terminology & concepts, and one of those mysteries might have been the concept of a circular economy. But fear not, SDO is here to break it down and explain it in basic terms

So, what is the concept of a circular economy?
The concept of a circular economy is a closed loop economy – meaning that waste and pollution are designed out of the system completely and only materials & energy that can be put back into the system, or that can regenerate natural systems in some form, are used.

The aim of a circular economy is to build and continue to rebuild the overall system to ensure a stable, sustainable, and continuous loop of productivity that works effectively at all scales  (big businesses, small, global and individual etc.)

How is it different to what we currently have?
Currently we have what is called a linear economy, which means that we take a material & energy, make a product from it, use it, and then dispose of it. The original material & energy is not put back into the making or regeneration of anything else. For example, take a carpet or a rug. Traditionally, the fibers are coated in layers and layers of toxic chemicals that form a protective layer of the fibers so that the end product (the carpet or rug) can withstand the use it has been designed for.

But, at the end of it’s life cycle the product is more commonly tossed into landfill rather than being recycled. That’s because it’s not economically viable, or even possible, to separate all the components, extract the original fibers and reuse them.

In a circular economy, that carpet or rug would be designed from the get go with recycle-ability, material extraction and material re-use in mind.

Credit: https://www.mywaste.ie/the-circular-economy/

Is a circular economy possible?
This is an ongoing debate but in theory, yes. However,  to achieve a true and full circular economy there has to be a complete systematic economic change, and currently that is not possible. But, step by step,individual businesses and aspects of industries, such as the fashion industry, are making moves towards a more circular economy.

This is a complex topic and the above is a basic overview of it. Each industry faces its own challenges and more often than not there are a lot of grey areas.

For more information visit the following resources:

https://www.nature.com/news/the-circular-economy-1.19594

https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore

https://theconversation.com/what-a-sustainable-circular-economy-would-look-like-13388

https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/explore/systems-and-the-circular-economy

 

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