Is Circular Economy the Solution for a Sustainable Future?
A circular economy is an economic system aimed at minimising waste and making the most of resources. In a circular system resource input and waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimized by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling. (Wikipedia)
Linear Vs Circular Model
This regenerative approach is in contrast to the traditional linear economy, which has a ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production, which is highly wasteful and detrimental to the environment.
This current system mines resources, uses them in the manufacturing of a product and then disposes of these valuable materials at the end of use; usually to landfill or incineration, meaning a large amounts of resource value is lost. On the other hand, the circular economy closes this resource loop by providing a system of operation that designs wastage out of the system, avoiding landfills and incineration altogether and keeping resources in use for as long as possible through reuse and regeneration of new products. The reuse of resources should include their reclamation by the original manufacturer for use in new products, allowing financial and environmental savings; and here I would focus on equipment that are nowadays anecdotally known as to have a “short interest span” (because materials, marketing and trends define it as so) – mobile phones, laptops, tablets, etc., all the high tech products that require appropriate waste management otherwise will end up in landfills, contaminating soil and water. Gladly, there is a emergent interest from companies on how to create more eco efficient processes for product development.
Watch the following explanation:
The circular economy is a regenerative system in which resource input, waste, emission, and energy leakage are minimised by slowing, closing, and narrowing energy and material loops; this can be achieved through long-lasting design, maintenance, repair, reuse, re-manufacturing, refurbishing, recycling, and upcycling.
Visionaires such as Ellen MacArthur Foundation® and Cradle to Cradle® started a while back establishing the circular economy on the agenda of decision makers across business, government, and academia; and I am sure if you look close enough in your amenities you will find a company or initiative that follow this model.
One I can highlight from my local investigations is the Rediscovery Centre in Dublin (pioneer project in Ireland, located in the repurposed Boiler House in Ballymun); this is the “National Centre for the Circular Economy and it is a creative space connecting people, ideas and resources for greener living in Ireland”; their main focus is on Upcycling and Recycling Furniture, Fashion, Paint and Bicycles; there is a hub for each area of creation and upstairs a store where creations are exhibited and also for sale. I have to say the items have such a distinct expression and represent so well the concept of upcycling! I felt I could take the all store with me…(see in the pictures below a few examples, but I dare you to go and have a look yourself); they also embrace other Irish products that represent the same idea of sustainability (mainly household and for personal hygiene products); just go in and browse the store as you´ll have opportunity to learn as well from educational and interactive installations. From the first floor you have access to an outdoor garden, which just shows you how easy can be to support biodiversity in a small area (vertical garden, reed bed system, a “bug hotel”, etc); the own building itself has a number of other sustainable features, such as orientation optimisation for solar gain and rain water harvesting and grey water recycling.
There is also an Education team that offer interactive and experiential workshops, job opportunities and a prospected cafe in the ground floor, serving fairtrade café and hopefully some local baked goods.
Is this the One Solution?
Giving what I saw and learned from my investigations I believe circular economy is a way to go for a sustainable development across most economic areas; it may not the current “solution to fit all”, but the basic ideas are sound and are instigating better practices across big industries and governments policy-making. I do understand too that for this idea to succeed, the resource cycling loops must combine with a profound reduction of consumption, long product durability and cultivate the concept of reusing and repair in societies. So research, innovation and education are key!!