The concept of Circular economy is a relatively new one but has gained a lot of traction in recent years with the World moving away from the perishable and finite resources like coal, gasoline & wood etc. The age-old Linear economic model is unsustainable in the long run and is therefore slowly transitioning to the more efficient & renewable Circular model. The expedited digital transformation of the global ecosystems has also supported this initiative greatly. Before you get confused about the two terms, let’s look at the following infographic of the two models.
Easier said than done, this kind of transition would take commitment and resources from local & national governments making use of the research of the academics to come up with innovative solutions by putting best practices into action. The current most prevalent model is linear economy in which we produce from finite resources, consume & produce waste to pollute, while the circular economy presents a regenerative design in which you produce from renewable sources, consume responsibly and recycle & reuse the materials. The main purpose of this model is to produce minimum waste by extending the after-life purpose of everything from food, tools, households items & clothes etc. So far most of the western economies have been happy just recycling the massive amounts of waste produced on a daily basis. EU, however, has taken the biggest initiative in moving towards a Circular economic model.
Last year in June, Leaders and experts from 90 countries met at the World Circular Economy Forum in Helsinki at the circular economy’s gathering in Finland, attended by around 1,500 experts and policymakers to discuss ways & means on how to better implement this concept of circular economy on a global scale. Followed by that the EU ratified the Circular Economy Package (CEP) in April of this year which includes higher recycling targets, reducing waste to a minimum, reusing & refurbishing existing materials & products apart from making all plastics recyclable by the year 2030. These are all commendable steps which will reduce pressure on environment, inducing competitiveness & innovation and providing new job opportunities.
With barriers like access to reusable products & cost effectiveness of recycling etc. it will be a challenge to achieve the ambitious targets set forth in implementing this policy across the continent. A successful adoption, however, would provide a great model to follow for other countries & regions.
The Linear economy is no more a sustainable model for a planet of more than 7 billion people where we are producing goods from finite resources at a rate faster than we can replenish them, consumption is outstripping the supply, and millions of tons of non-bio degradable waste is littering our oceans & landfills across the globe. So far we are lingering with a system which is not only unsustainable, but becoming a major contributing factor in destroying the fragile ecosystems around the world. A circular system, on the other hand, presents a restorative solution which marks the shift towards using renewable energy, eliminating the use of toxic chemicals & and an aim to design out the waste with efficient business processes and a superior design of systems & products.
Apart from the positive steps at the countries’ level, Startups like RePack and MaaS Global are already exploring the next steps in circular solutions employing technology. Use of Renewable energy to power their offices by tech giants like Google & Apple is bringing much-needed awareness & acceptance as well. Honorable mention of UK-based Ellen MacArthur Foundation which has been at the forefront of the circular economy initiatives in Europe & across the Globe.
The biggest initiative so far in this regards has been from the city of Paris which recently unveiled a plan to build the World’s greenest business district. It is a bold step towards moving to a circular economy which includes 15 action items, put together after taking inputs from the Public & Private sector, Civil society & Academia. The plan basically envisages sustainable production & consumption with an aim to eliminate waste by 2020. The following infographic would help you understand what they are trying to achieve.
The need for accelerating to a Clean & Eco-friendly economy is immediate & and while the Circular economy is not a magical fix solution for our sustainability & environmental woes, it is most certainly a major step in the right direction.