By Bernadette Thomas
Any mention of the economy you’d be forgiven if your first response was to groan, followed by thoughts of interest rates, mortgages, or cost of living pressures. But there is one type of economy that will hopefully raise a more hopeful response – the circular economy.
A circular economy aims to remove waste from the system and focuses instead on the repeated use of resources. It’s a closed loop system, using waste from one process to provide inputs to others, reducing pollution and waste, and prioritising reuse, sharing, repair. It employs a design approach to ensure that waste is minimised or eliminated and resources are used wisely and kept within the system.
It takes our current linear system and turns it on its head. Instead of taking resources from the ground, turning them into products, and throwing them away when we no longer want them, the circular economy seeks to make full use of those initial resources, by keeping them in the economy for as long as possible.
Adopting a circular economy approach requires adopting a new mindset to the way we create products, from start to finish. The first step is to design them to last and for disassembly and repair, reducing waste and obsolescence.
The second is to keep products and materials in the economy, through reuse and repair or recycling.
The circular economy is a closed, regenerative system, based on how living systems operate, constantly feeding inputs back into the system. It builds on the cradle to cradle (as opposed to cradle to grave) and cleaner production approaches to production. It mimics biological systems and works within these systems, aiming to restore once exploited natural systems.
The idea of a circular economy isn’t a new one, and it’s not without its challenges. How do we deal with a growing population and the subsequent growth for goods? How do we deal with the need to continually extract certain natural resources? What to do with the eventual residual waste?
And the elephant in the room – what about avoiding waste in the first place?
So how can we participate in the circular economy? I’ve written about waste avoidance in these pages before, so it should come as no surprise that the answers are simple (here are some ideas with a little help from medium.com:
- Minimise waste and pollution – consumption, energy, water, avoid disposable/single use items
- Keep materials in use – buy second hand, rent, repair items, buy durable as often as you can, recycle
- Regenerate natural systems – compost the 30-50% of your waste that is food and garden material
There’s a lot of information available so get on the google and find out some more, talk to friends and family about it, and let businesses know that you want them to participate.
Bernadette Thomas is a long-time circular economy participant – without really knowing it.