Circular Economy: What Is It, Why Do We It and Trends
In simple terms, a circular economy is a system that is designed with the aim of eliminating waste and the continuous usage of finite resources. It relies on the basic principles of reuse, sharing, recycling, refurbishment, and remanufacture to reach its goals. Circular economy keeps products and resources working for longer, making their use more efficient.
We often see that many of our products and the resources we use in the process have taken a use-and-throw model. Circular economy aims to eliminate this model.
When done correctly, the benefits of a circular economy are undeniable. We are at a crossroads in history, where our unconstrained consumption of non-renewable resources and the waste generated has resulted in rising global temperatures and climate change.
Benefits of Circular Economy for the Planet
The removal of waste and pollution is key to maintaining the health of the planet. Here are a couple of pointers on how a circular economy is beneficial for the planet:
- Reduction in carbon dioxide emissions
Studies have shown that a circular economy can reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the EU by half by 2030. Other researchers have found that even by just removing organic waste from the landfills of the UK alone can reduce greenhouse gases emissions by 7.4 million tonnes.
- Reduction in the consumption of primary materials
Primary materials include that used to manufacture cars, construction materials, synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, non-renewable energy sources, and water used for agriculture. With the removal of our reliance on these limited resources, the circular economy puts less strain on the planet.
- Improves soil health
With a reduction in the usage of the land for growing agricultural and commercial needs, synthetic fertilizers, and pesticides, the land will have the chance to recover with global reforestation. Fragile ecosystems can be left alone to flourish in peace.
Benefits of Circular Economy for Governments/Companies
The benefits of a circular economy are not only for the health of the planet. Corporations and governments can also benefit from adopting a circular economy.
- Increased economic growth
Since the cost of materials will be reduced, manufacturers will find an overall boost. Several new industries will also rise up in order to fill in the current gaps in the usage of ‘waste’.
- Bigger saving on materials
With the reuse and remanufacturing of products and materials, there will be an increase in savings on material costs. Companies will make their systems and processes more efficient in order to reduce wastage while any waste will be redirected to other industries.
- New jobs
New skilled labor is required in order to support a circular economy.
- Increased innovation
The current systems are not geared towards a shift to a circular economy. There will be many cases where actual processes will have to be created from scratch. A call for innovation has always resulted in economies and industrial sectors, enjoying a period of growth.
Circular Economy Trends That Will Shape 2020
Here are a few trends in the circular economy that will shape 2020 and beyond.
- Manufacturers will be responsible for their waste
Europe, Canada and many states in the US already have policies in place which require companies to bear the cost of collecting, disposing or recycling their products at the end of their lifespan.
- Companies will introduce consumption refills
Many companies looking for good PR and a solid green initiative are considering introducing a refill initiative to help with managing waste while reducing the cost of goods; this especially works with products like Soda, Water, Juice, and Cosmetics. Some brands expected to introduce this in the coming year are Colgate, Pantene, and Tide.
- Brands will consider collaborations to reuse packaging and materials
Many popular brands will consider following the example of NextGen Consortium founded by Starbucks and MacDonald’s, in creating collaborations that help them reduce the cost of packaging by creating reusable materials. The NextGen Consortium has created fully recoverable plastic cups that are reusable and can be used by numerous brands at a time.
- Shift to closed-loop products
Be it the fast fashion industry or fast food industry, 2019, was a year of record coverage and education about the toxic nature of the “fast” brands that mass produce at low costs in environmentally unsustainable ways. Brands are quickly making the shift to closed-loop products; an example is the new fully recyclable sneaker introduced by Adidas.
As the circular economy continues to gain traction, companies will have to change their processes in order to reduce, reuse, and recycle. However, while these steps will go a long way, companies also need to take a proactive position towards creating a positive impact. With companies like EcoMatcher offering tree-planting initiatives to corporations, there are no more excuses for not aiming for and attaining sustainable development goals.