Making Effective Transition to the Circular Economy

The extensive utilization of natural resources extracted directly from the ground to develop products and then throw away at the end of their life has brought the world on the verge of crisis. This has led to the world to rethink about the sustainable approach where production and consumption of commodities can be recycled and reused. With this approach, the concept of the circular economy emerged, ensuring raw materials are extracted and made into products to be designed and manufactured for reuse and remanufacture.

Unlike the linear economy model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on optimistic society-wide benefits. The current model of economic production and consumption is not sustainable. In this model, materials are extracted from the environment, processed, and refined, and turned into consumer products that are inevitably disposed of in a landfill.

The Circular Economy

The circular economy identifies the significance of the economy requiring to work effectively at all scales, for large and small businesses, organizations and individuals, globally and locally. In this model, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept of the circular economy rejects the linear model outright, defining the technical and biological cycles.

In biological cycles, consumption of foods and biologically-based materials like cotton, wood and more designed to feed back into the system for composting and anaerobic digestion. Conversely, technical cycles recuperate and restore products, components and materials by reusing, repairing and recycling.

Considering the report, the need for such a circular system is more urgent as there has limited raw material on this planet. Within the next 15 years, the world will be seeing the rise of around 3 billion additional product-hungry middle-class individuals. And there will be 9 billion people on the planet in the midst of the twenty-first century.

Going Beyond Sustainability

Several businesses are already deploying a circular economy model. Major market players, including Google and Dell are collaborating with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on closed-loop initiatives. For these firms, the circular economy does not only reduce waste and improve sustainability performance, but also surge competitiveness, new product development and boost overall sales.

For instance, back in 2015, Dell announced progress in its circular economy initiatives, with the expansion of its closed-loop recycled plastic supply chain and new industry collaborations to advance global circular practices. The company’s closed-loop recycled plastics supply chain has seen 4.2 million pounds of closed-loop plastics remanufactured into enclosures for new products. Moreover, in an effort to shift towards the circular economy, Tetra Pak, a multinational food packaging and processing subsidiary company of Tetra Laval, also launched the world’s first fully renewable package in the same year.

The Role of Cities in the Transition

As the circular economy transition has emerged in the past few years, cities leaders must begin thinking and designing circular services and systems. They must encourage to leverage regenerative resources and keep materials in the loop as long as possible. Cities also need to re-examine existing stocks and the flow of materials, and to do so, inventiveness is required to keep these materials in the loop and maintain their high-value quality.

Switching to a circular economy also requires robust collaboration across diverse stakeholders that can help close material loops. For instance, manufacturers to create circular products of reused or recycled materials require that consumers and retailers return the packaging or items that go into their creation and that waste management agencies, in turn, provide them with recycled material.

Municipalities can make this interchangeable process easier as they have the power to involve citizens in incentivized schemes. In many European countries, incentivized schemes such as deposit-refund initiatives have already implemented. In England, the government has announced that all drinks containers, whether plastic, glass or metal, will be covered by the deposit return scheme.

Moving ahead, cities leaders also need to insert circularity in their policies and strategies. They must prioritize reducing over recycling and reusing over throwing away. Governments can conquer these challenges effectively by consulting and working together with other groups, governments or cities.

Moreover, embracing and shifting to the circular economy can evade the utilization of non-renewable resources and preserves or improves renewable ones, by returning valuable nutrients to the soil to support regeneration, for instance. Circular systems can also make effective use of bio-based materials by fostering several diverse uses for them as they span the economy and natural systems.