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The circular economy — what does it mean and why is it so important?

The circular economy is an innovative method for how we use and dispose of items. Here’s how it works and its importance.

In an evolving world of sustainability, the circular economy is an approach that has metamorphosed over ten years now to serve as a workable substitute to our current, uneconomical systems of unrestricted consumption. It is progressively trending among the masses and has proven to be less demanding for industry or consumers. This approach would start up a durable model, conservation, overhaul, salvage, reconstructing, renovating, recycling.

It is, basically, another thoughtful way of handling production and consumption. With the vast awareness of civilization’s impact on the world, it is obvious that a new approach to things is necessary, not just to tackle the limited nature of non-renewable resources, but to address the immense quantity of waste created as well. Essentially, the circular economy hopes to achieve breakthroughs to this regard encompassing everything, including the multiple industries.

So, what is the circular economy? And why is it important? Here we will be looking at the background and evolution of this approach and how it is gaining ground to becoming a norm.

A Brief History of The Circular Economy

The idea of a circular economy is not actually a recent one and therefore cannot be credited to one person or a theoretical method. The concepts outlined in Kenneth’s Boulding’s 1966 essay, The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth, are usually cited as the initial trials to what is now a completely groomed system for an economy that values rebuilding and recreating rather than discarding. From these little start, different concepts that communicated similar purposes began to agree.

Those concepts include cradle to cradle assessment embedded with the laws of ecology, bio-imitation targeting a working economy and new designs with closed-loop systems.

Nonetheless, it had to take a 2012 report from the Ellen Macarthur Foundation regarding the business economy, titled: Economic and business rationale for an accelerated transition, after which the economic and business opportunities were put into consideration. In short, this report has put the Circular economy at an edge to be considered an indispensable and economically useful option to the acting system for all businesses and companies.

The Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy also known as PACE was launched in 2018, uniting the World Economic Forum, Philips, World Resources Institute, United Nations Environment Programme, Ellen MacArthur Foundation, and 40 more partners to instigate the Circular Economy agenda. Currently, PACE is the force behind numerous international projects that are responsible for facilitating the shift to a circular economy.

Defining the Circular Economy

The sum of these concepts, ideas, reports, essays, and platforms would finally amount to one goal. For the world to better manage depleting natural resources, and handle man’s ever-increasing waste, we must change from traditional views of tapping, processing, disposing and rather inculcate closed loops that value already used resources. In summary, our “disposable culture” must be transformed. Solely by preserving products, packaging and eventually resources in circulation for a long time can we deal with the problems caused by our existing economies.

The definition of the circular economy versus the existing linear model could be effectively illustrated using these diagrams.

Why is the Circular Economy Important?

As mentioned earlier, the principles of a circular economy are; the decrease in our dependency on non-renewable resources and the reduction of waste. However, today it targets much more than this and covers a wide range of other principles that have become inseparable from a truly circular economy.

Seeing that much of the circular economist’s intrinsic concepts have been accepted, there are still upcoming philosophies on how these values can evolve and expand.

A common hidden fact to all approaches is the idea that the circular economy must be accepted as an economic and social advantage instead of a nuisance.

How Does the Circular Economy Work?

Certainly, these fast changes to our manufacturing will diversely have their effects on different product types. But the concepts of the technical cycle and the biological cycle are shown in this circular economy diagram.

In the biological cycle, natural resources are legally and sustainably tapped in large quantities from the earth, plants, and animals. There is, however, usage of products before “waste” is decomposed and goes back to the ground as manure.

In the technical cycle, natural resources are processed or produced to ensure durability and easy recycling. Products, therefore, are used before the materials are recycled, or a selection of distinctive components are retrieved and reused.

In these two cases, renewable sources such as solar energy are used in production. Sometimes products may fall under both the technical cycle and the biological cycle. For instance, plastic bottles made from biodegradable polymer should be made in such a way as to be used many times before final disposal for the decomposition stage.

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