Understanding the circular economy

Understanding the circular economy

Posted on 22 April 2014.

What is the circular economy? As natural resources become increasingly rare, threatening our social model, we take a closer look at a concept that puts sustainability at the heart of the economy.

Goodbye throwaway society. Hello sustainable society. That’s the idea behind the circular economy, an alternative to the overexploitation of the planet’s natural resources. Emerging at the beginning of the last decade, hot on the heels of the “cradle to cradle” theory developed by William McDunough and Michael Braungart, the circular economy is about recycling everything we produce, while at the same time generating zero pollution. Instead of simply recycling its waste or cutting its energy consumption, a business in the circular economy takes a comprehensive approach to the way it produces goods. Original, no?
What is “cradle to cradle”?

In the circular economy, each new object is designed for future reuse and, at the end of its life, becomes a potential resource, rather than an item of waste for disposal. That’s why many local authorities worldwide have chosen to transform their household waste into energy. In fact, some waste, after simple fermentation, can produce biogas or even fuel for clean vehicles. And because businesses in the circular economy approach production as a “closed loop system,” rather than a linear system (“produce, use and throw away”), they regenerate waste, like an ecosystem in nature.
The circular economy sets our sights high. It modifies each stage in the economic cycle, from producing goods and services to using them. Designing goods to be recyclable and repairable – the opposite of planned obsolescence – is becoming the norm. That means the end of washing machines that break down one day after their warranty expires, without any hope of being repaired. The products around us, on the contrary, are designed to consume less energy and incorporate our waste. In short, they’re being built to last. And it’s not just production that’s changing. By sharing and/or reusing products, we’re radically changing the way we consume them. Imagine a world where nothing is lost and everything is shared, and where each consumer plays a role in protecting the environment and drastically reduces his or her carbon footprint.

Learn more :

Achieving economic growth without harming the biosphere, by Emmanuel Delannoy.