What Is Circular Economy?

The Power Behind A Sustainable Future

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“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” -Chief Seattle

The “Indigenous Perceptions Of The Human–Nature Relationship” paper describes how indigenous inhabitants believe in having a shared ancestry and origin with nature.

For them, life anywhere is only possible when the inhabitants consider the natural constituents of an ecosystem surrounding them as their kin or relatives. In such an environment, the two life forms affect each other, enhancing the ecosystem.

The Maori culture of New Zealand is a contemporary example where humans and nature are profoundly related and are considered equally interdependent. Their way of life is abreast of the modern sustainable life and conservation of natural resources.

Photo by Al amin on Unsplash

Such interdependent habitats in our ecosystem have always fascinated me.

It reminds me of my grandmother, whose ancestors belonged to an indigenous community. She cultivated her food in a small garden, prepared cheese and butter at home, and never wasted food. Instead, she utilized all her resources to keep products in constant use.

I often wonder how great it would be to apply this circular strategy to our economic system.

The present

Eyes are useless, when the mind is blind

The current linear economy has exposed our natural resources to severe exploitation to fulfill the increasing population’s requirements over the years.

We have a linear economic system today, in which businesses utilize our limited resources to create items that are consumed by their clients and discarded.

As a result, we call it a “take-make-waste” economy.

Moreover, about 5.3 billion middle-class consumers are expected to increase by 2030. It will result in an exponential rise in materials’ demand while their supply remains limited.

In only 50 years, global use of materials has nearly quadrupled — outpacing population growth. In 1972, as the Club of Rome’s report Limits to Growth was published, the world consumed 28.6 billion tonnes.

Our take-make-waste economy consumes 100 billion tonnes of materials a year and wastes over 90%.

This questions the current economic system’s ability to efficiently meet the demand while conserving future generations’ resources.

We need to rethink the model; we need to rethink the way we consume.

The circular economy can help to close the emissions gap.

Fortunately, as more organizations are innovating, designing new products, and developing processes and sustainable methods to derive raw materials for production, we observe a new model’s emerging adoption -the circular economy.

Such new systems possess a high potential for disrupting the existing economic system.

What Is Circular Economy?

The term ‘circular economy’ was first mentioned by circular economy pioneer John Kay of the UK.

This term implies an industrial system that is fully restorative and regenerative by design, capable of maintaining itself in perpetuity by replacing waste material with equally valuable assets.

The circular economy operates on circular principles where production cycles are closed, product life is extended, and waste is designed out.

This circular economy system benefits businesses, customers, and governments leading to far-reaching sustainable economic benefits, including fewer greenhouse gas emissions and environmental pollution.-renewable materials, uses sustainable energy, and minimizes material waste.

The circular economy business model also involves replacing the tradition of linear economic practices.

Instead of creating items for one-time usage, circular economy engineering focuses on designing things to be reused or repurposed after their primary existence. It’s all about producing goods that may be mended and enhanced over time so that they have the most value possible.

The circular economy model entails replacing the concept of ‘end of life with ‘extended use.’ It recycles naturally and eliminates waste by design. It also emphasizes reducing the carbon footprint and producing sustainable energy.

It urges companies to look beyond the linear economic system and achieve collective societal benefits. It is further supported by the increasing use of renewable natural resources, proving the circular economic model to be economical, naturally, and socially positive.

What Are The Principles Of Circular Economy?

According to Ellen McArthur Foundation, the circular economy is based on three fundamental principles design out of waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate the natural systems.


1. Design out of waste and pollution

The circular economy is founded on the idea that there is no waste.

Considering its aim to design out of waste and pollution, businesses with this working model produce quality goods that can last a long time and do not have to be reproduced as frequently.

These goods are easy to disassemble to reuse or transform. Unlike recycling, a circular economy does not involve a massive amount of energy to transform or reuse the goods; instead, these goods are easily put apart and used for different purposes. It helps it reduce unnecessary use of natural capital and, in turn, preserve and enhance it.

2. Keep products and materials in use

The circular economy model highlights the difference between biological and technical cycles. In the biological cycle, individuals consume biological materials such as linen, food items, etc., for their daily life requirements and return them into the system as compost or anaerobically digested material.

Such feedback regenerates natural resources such as soil and oceans for the economy.

On the other hand, technical cycles recoup and reinstitute products -mobile phones, components -chipsets, and materials into the system, using strategies such as recycling, repairing, and reusing.

3. Regenerate Natural Systems

The third principle of the circular economy is to utilize resources to their maximum capacity by circulating them in both biological and technical cycles.

This principle focuses on reducing dependence on non-renewable energy sources and increasing the system’s sustainability by mainly depending upon natural renewing processes.

Thus, it aims to make the system more effective by identifying and reducing obstructive externalities.

The circular economy is a circular process that involves designing out waste and pollution, keeping products in use as long as possible, and regenerating natural systems.

It is circular (duh!)

While circular economies have been utilized for centuries by indigenous cultures who live off the land, it’s an innovative concept to Western culture.

This article has provided some insight into what circular economy is all about and its principles.

It is a long path that requires a radical rethink in the way we are doing business today.

Yet, we can start by creating experiments around the business model or product design, to achieve sustainable growth without sacrificing the quality of life on this planet we call home.

If you are interested in learning more about ‘circular economic’ or joining a group of like-minded changemakers, follow Circular Disruption Think. Thank you, or join us on Linkedin.

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