What does the future hold for the circular economy?
Sustainability has become a buzzword in today’s digital age. The main reason for the hype of this concept is to protect the environment affecting by the current linear economic model and save the planet. This effort is largely supported by the EU’s Green Deal, which provides an action plan to boost the efficient use of resources by moving to a clean, circular economy and restore biodiversity and cut pollution. The circular economy is an emerging concept where sources, products and services can be used reused, reduced and recycled. This economic concept is designed specifically to lessen waste and pollution.
According to the WWF’s Living Planet Report, until 1970, the ecological footprint of humanity was smaller than the Earth’s rate of regeneration of resources. But to feed and fulfill the 21st-century lifestyles, we are overusing our planet’s biocapacity by at least 56 percent.
In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept relies heavily on three principles: design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and recycle and regenerate natural systems. Ellen MacArthur Foundation revealed that there are significant circular economy opportunities in Asian countries, especially India and China. As Asia accounts for around 60 percent of the world’s population and have manufacturing hubs, the last two decades have seen these two countries experience rapid growth, urbanization, and industrialization alongside the associated negative environmental impacts.
Circular Economy: A Sustainable Economic Development Paradigm
Since the release of the European Commission’s 2015 Circular Economy Package, the circular economy model has been catching on fast. The package aims to stimulate Europe’s transition towards this economic model that will boost global competitiveness, strengthen sustainable economic growth and generate new jobs. The proposed actions intend to contribute to closing the loop of product lifecycles through greater recycling and re-use and benefit both the environment and the economy.
Monitoring a circular economy is of utmost importance for society and economic development. This will be assessed in the case of the European Union and is based on the identification of main areas of the appearance of circularity and defining the available indicators to measure them. These include sustainable resource management; societal behavior and business operations.
Circular Economy in 2021 and Beyond
The circular economy model proved a greater alternative to protect the economy and environment in 2020 as COVID-19 exposed the failures of the linear economy. Undeniably, the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an unprecedented challenge to all aspects of human endeavor. However, a group of researchers led by the UK’s University of Warwick unveiled that a circular economy could help the world navigate and recover from the pandemic. It could also support nations to reach net-zero carbon emissions goals.
For a sustainable future, policymakers should hold take responsibility for waste and pollution. They should adopt circular economy strategies in all facets of economic development. These strategies can also bring a vast differentiation between consumable and durable components of a product. Unlike in linear economy, consumables in the circular economy are largely made of biological ingredients or nutrients that are at least non-toxic and can be recycled and returned to the biosphere.