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Features of the Circular Economy

Updated: Sep 25, 2022


Our social-economy operation today is primarily based on (1) the excessively high material and energy consumption and (2) large portions of material as waste which both can be solved by moving to a Circular economy.

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A circular economy is a holistic approach that should not be viewed only as recycling or take-back programs.



The first principle of circular economy is eliminating waste and pollution, which means that by design, we stop waste before it is even created. One thing we need to always keep in mind is that waste is a result of design choice, and the decision at the design stage will determine about 80% of its product impacts. Planned obsolescence design and perceptive obsolescence design must be banned. Designers and producers have to ask, "what will happen to this product/component at the end of its life?"


The second principle of circular economy is circulating products and materials. Our material is categorized either into technical material following the technical cycle below or biological material group following the biological loop. Offend, at the design phase, we mix 2 cycles together, which makes it very hard/ impossible to dissemble, extract value material or recycle at the later point, which eventually ends up as waste.

But Don't forget that by nature, there is no waste.


The last principle of circular economy is regenerative nature, where we give more space to support natural processes. We rely on nature and serve nature.



The biological cycle starts with the process of cascades. In simple words, cascades mean that we try to make use of products and materials which are already in the economy, for example, making textile out of orange peels or turning agriculture by-product waste into animal feed. The following process is composting and anaerobic digestion; the typical example is biogas. The farming method also plays a significant role in the biological cycle. The most sustainable farming method calls out regenerative agriculture, restorative aquaculture, agro-ecology, agro-forestry, or conservation agriculture. And finally, the biological process ultimately aims to return everything we once took safely back to nature.


The technical cycle presents a bit more complicated loop with priority on the inner circles since the more embedded value of the product will be captured if it is kept as a whole (in the inner loops), and at the same time

these loops are more effective in cost saving for both customers and businesses.

  • Sharing: increase the utilization of products

  • Maintaining: prolong products' usable lifespan. Maintaining should be expanded to not only the expensive items such as cars but also the cheap on like clothes.

  • Reusing: keep products in use in their original form with the original purpose.

  • Redistributing: the process of diverting products from their original intended market to another market or customer.

  • Refurbishing: replacing some components, updating specifications, or improving appearance. The Right to repair movement facilitated the refurbishing process in manufacturers and related policies.

  • Manufacturing: emphasizes the intensive work of the inside part (engine) to give the product another life. This state should only happen when the product cannot remain in the loop with its current form.

  • Recycling: the final loop to keep material (not product) in use. Recycling is not the primarily focused part of the circular economy since it means losing the product's embedded value (energy, resources... which were invested in making the product).

"In a properly built Circular economy, one should rather focus on avoiding the recycling stage at all costs. It may sound straightforward, but preventing waste from being created in the first place is the only realistic strategy."

World Economic Forum


The benefits of a Circular economy

Economic benefits

  • Job creation: While traditionally material economy-based business-related jobs will be lost, new jobs crossed sections: recycling, repair, rent, and remanufacturing will outweigh the loss with the net creation of up to 6 million jobs by 2030 (ILO, 2018)

  • Economic growth: According to Accenture research, the circular economy could spur innovation and job growth to increase global output by $4.5 trillion by 2030. Obviously, it takes time to create a comprehensive transition in the economy and the supporting legal system in order to achieve this benefit.

  • Material cost saving: The shift in ownership view and performance economy will significantly contribute to the decrease in usage of virgin material and the manufacturing cost.

Environmental benefits

  • Reduce GHG emissions: According to the Circular Economy's Circularity Gap Report 2021, we could cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2032 if circular economy concepts were to be adopted everywhere.

  • Aim to Zero waste: Reusing resources and goods to achieve zero waste is fundamental to a circular economy. Especially a significant portion of roughly 300 million tons of plastic waste could be reduced thanks to the Circular economy.

  • Reduce primary and non-renewable resource consumption

Suggested policy for Circular economy

  • Administrative or regulatory: bans, licenses.

  • Economic instruments: taxes, subsidies.

  • Informative method: required reporting, certification, and labeling scheme.

  • Extended producer responsibility

There is a long journey for us to go from Circular Design to Circular Business Model to Circular policy and finally to a Circular Society.



Reference:

  1. World Economic Forum

  2. Ellen MacArthur Foundation

  3. Future planet, https://www.futureplanet.com/resources/7-benefits-of-the-circular-economy/

  4. Tontoton, https://tontoton.com/5-benefits-of-a-circular-economy/



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