What is a Circular Economy?
You may have heard a lot of words flying around about embracing a ‘circular economy’. But what does it mean?
A circular economy promotes product design with minimal waste and maximum efficiency. Seems simple enough! But in order to better understand, let’s compare it to the ‘linear economy’ system prevailing today.
The Linear Economy of Today
A linear economy follows the ‘take, make, dispose’ model; we extract natural materials, we process them into a product, use the product, and then we throw it away.
In a linear economy, it is generally the consumer’s responsibility to recycle. Unfortunately, however, this poses a problem as consumer rates of recycling are generally very low. For example, despite being fully recyclable, only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled. 40% ends up in landfills, and the rest becomes plastic pollution.
Pollution and landfill waste is a consequence of a linear economy. This type of inefficient production is dependent on large quantities of cheap and accessible materials and energy. As resources become scarce, this type of model becomes both economically and environmentally unsustainable.
In contrast to a linear system, a circular economy aims to create a ‘closed loop’ of resource use. This requires much more than simply encouraging consumers to recycle. It requires a complete change in the way businesses extract, build and sell products.
Linear Economy vs. Circular Economy
A circular economy approach argues that we should use recycled materials to create new products instead of traditional virgin resources. It encourages the switch to clean and renewable energy sources during production and reusable packaging for delivery.
This economy promotes innovative product design and systems that support repairs and long-lasting functionality. It also finally encourages end-consumer recycling to complete the circle. This system will ultimately reduce waste, increase resource efficiency and help reduce the negative environmental impact of production as a whole.
Many companies are already embracing a circular economy strategy. W.r.yuma will be launching zero-waste, 3d printed sunglasses following the closed-loop philosophy. Instead of using raw materials, they create sunglasses using plastic from recycled car dashboards and soda bottles. This not only reduces the environmental impact of raw material extraction, but it also helps to combat already existing plastic pollution. The brand has also developed incentives for consumers to bring back their old sunglasses in order to recycle them. This recycling scheme offers discount incentives where the longer you’ve had your sunglasses, the larger the discount is.
This is only one example of a brand leading the way for more sustainable production. Circular economy helps protect our natural resources, encouraging innovation and design. This makes this system an environmentally and economically viable option. Look for brands that are closing the loop, and do your part to join the cycle.