When you consider how much trash the world produces each and every year, the number may or may not surprise you. It’s definitely an overwhelming thought however.
In this age of mass consumerism, almost everything we buy, use or create eventually becomes garbage. The shoes we wear, the furniture we rest on, the cars we drive. Once we’ve decided these things are worn out, no longer of use, or too damaged, we dump them without really thinking much of it.
We carry on this continuous cycle of making, taking and wasting. As our population grows, so do our landfills collecting massive amounts of trash.
It is incredibly important that we address this issue and nip the consequences in the bud before it’s too late. But how?
What is a circular economy?
A strategy to halt the continuation of immense waste production has been developed by a number of people including architect and economist Walter Stahel, German chemist Michael Braungart, US professor John Lyle and his student William McDonough. Their ideologies, though separately theorized, all share a similar concept of implementing a more resourceful,
A circular economy is a new system for economic production that would benefit businesses, society and the environment. It would work to reduce the wasting of finite resources and increase the use of recyclable materials and renewable energy.
Our economy as it is today is linear. Companies make products, we purchase and use them, then we throw them away. A circular economy is based on three principles:
● Designing for durability to eliminate waste and pollution
● Keeping products and materials in circulation
● Restoring our natural ecosystems
The process of shifting to a circular economy would start with introducing new practices in all industries. Products would be designed with materials that are meant to last longer and then reused at the end of the shelf life. These materials can either be biological, meaning they can return to the earth and replenish the soil, or technical, meaning their elements can be recycled and used to make more products.
A major change like this would open up opportunities for new eco-friendly businesses. It would also create new jobs due to existing businesses needing to hire specific departments for receiving and remanufacturing.
A circular economy would also require a global shift to solar energy. Our current energy consumption is centered around depleting the natural fuel resources of the planet. Renewable energy is becoming more and more accessible and affordable for homes and businesses.
If we were to shift our society to a circular focused way of consuming, our natural ecosystems would be restored, our economy would flourish, and the health of our planet would thrive. Let’s explore all of the ways we would benefit from a circular economy.
#1 It would actively improve the environment.
Let’s start with the impact it would have on this giant rock we live on. We can’t survive without a planet after all.
We would not only minimize waste from using recyclable materials and designing for durability, we would also help reverse the damage already done to the environment. By building with biodegradable resources, our waste would return to the earth and replenish the soil with valuable nutrients. Also, using renewable energy sources would eliminate our dependence on fossil fuels, and discontinue destruction of important ecosystems.
#2 It would reduce hazardous substances that pollute the air, water and land.
Moving forward with a circular economy makes maintaining our own health and that of the planet a centralized priority for our industrial developments. By designing out the negative effects of our economic behaviors, we can see a decline in pollution of the air, water and land.
#3 It would promote economic growth and more job opportunities.
A circular economy would cause a ripple effect throughout society. Many leaders in government and business see opportunity in slowly separating our economic activities from the depletion of natural resources. It would inspire innovation, evoke a need for new industries and occupations, and boost our economy.
#4 It would decrease carbon dioxide emissions.
We could greatly decrease the amount of carbon emitted into the environment with a circular economy in place. Implementing renewable energy would work to eliminate the use of fossil fuels that pollute our air, water, food systems and the land.
By building with biological materials, we would naturally replenish the soil when we return these materials to the soil. This would diminish the need for chemical fertilizers and would have a great impact on reducing carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change and threaten our planet.
#5 It would reduce primary material consumption!
If we continue with a linear economy, our resources will become more limited over time until they eventually run out completely. The sooner we introduce a circular structure into our societies the better opportunity we have to reverse the negative impacts our consumption industries have had.
#6 A circular economy concept is cost-effective!
Organic materials, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, can cost countries millions of dollars towards our food industries. A major element of a circular structure is designing out waste and that includes food waste.
Today, the food we toss in the wastebin gets mixed in with all other trash to be taken to the landfills. Instead, we could reuse this compostable and biodegradable waste to naturally replenish soil and gradually decrease the need for depleting organic materials and the expenses that come with it.
By incorporating a system of organic waste collection, several industries can cut costs and increase revenue. Agriculture businesses across the world are already implementing regenerative agriculture and zero-budget natural farming, and saving money.
A circular economy would have an incredibly positive impact not only on our planet’s natural ecosystems, environment and resources, but it would improve human health and cause our economy to flourish. The benefits listed above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how we could truly change the future of our world.