Updated: Aug 15, 2022
The circular economy is a new economic model which improves the relationship between our economy, society and the environment. One of the main characteristics of this new system is that it shares some principles with nature's own cycles and ecosystems. It is becoming more popular because it can deal with many of the problems caused by the current linear economy
The circular economy is a new economic model which aims to improve the relationships between our economy, society and the environment. It is a way to design products, services and processes in a way that reduces waste and pollution and saves resources.
The circular economy involves three main phases:
Design for disassembly or use of multipurpose parts
Use of renewable resources such as water or sunlight where possible
Recovery at end-of-life through reusing materials instead of disposing with them
One of the main characteristics of this new system is that it shares some principles with nature's own cycles and ecosystems. It is becoming more popular because it can deal with many of the problems caused by the
current linear economy. In particular, extracting resources from nature, use for a short period of time, then discard or recycle into new products. Instead, circular economies reuse products to prevent waste from entering landfills or oceans.
The circular economy is an alternative to the traditional linear economy, the system we currently live in. A linear economy relies on natural resources and energy, but once they are depleted or used up, they cannot be easily replaced. In contrast, a circular economy aims to conserve natural resources by minimizing waste and reusing materials as much as possible.
The main difference between a linear and circular economy is that in a linear model raw materials are taken from nature (e.g. trees), made into product (e.g. paper), used until they are no longer useful (e.g., paper towel) then thrown away when they become obsolete (e.g., newspaper). With this model of production comes environmental problems caused by waste and pollution; high costs for companies who must re-buy raw materials; lower wages than those paid by companies where workers have more skills because less training is required due to low turnover rates; fewer jobs available since less people need them due to automation instead of employing others who might not be specialized enough yet trained enough needed skill set required.
By keeping resources in use for longer and therefore reducing waste, circular economy helps combat climate change and maintain biodiversity. Most circular economies turn waste into a valuable input for another company. For example, by reusing or recycling unwanted products or material in order to create new products or services. But the tightest circular economies can also create material for itself and cut out all transportation, and its fuel and energy, at the same time.
The most common way of doing this is by reusing or recycling unwanted products or material in order to create new products or services (most circular economies turn waste into a valuable input for another company). B
But the tightest circular economies can also create material for itself – they make things from ‘waste’ rather than raw materials.
There are three ways a product could be designed for circularity: Product as a Service; Take Back Schemes; Repair & Refurbishment.
What is circularity?
It's the idea that we can keep our products (and materials) in use for longer. Circular Economies are the systems and business models designed to do this.
In these systems, manufacturers work with recyclers to ensure their products' materials are reused rather than wasted. For example, you might get your car repaired at an auto shop instead of buying a new one—a service that also reduces energy consumption because it doesn't require as much assembly and transportation. Or perhaps you'll take your mobile phone back to the manufacturer after its life cycle so they can refurbish it rather than tossing it out into landfills like most phones do today—saving resources in both production and disposal costs while increasing its functional lifespan by keeping toxic chemicals out of landfills for future generations to deal with later on down the line (not too far down).
Circular design allows us to think about how a product will be used once it has reached the end of its life. This includes taking into account how easily a product can be repaired or how easily parts of it can be recycled.
Circular Design Principles
There are 4 main types of circular economy in use today:
Design for disassembly - The product should be designed so that all components can be disassembled and reused, unless there are compelling reasons not to do so.
Design for re-manufacturing - All components should be designed so they can easily be removed from the finished article, regardless of their function or location within the product.
Design for reuse - Components should take into account their potential future use outside the current product's lifecycle; this may mean redesigning them in such a way that they are more durable or ergonomic but also less suited to other applications than when originally designed.
Design for recycling - Moving away from complex, multi-material products and components into a single material, so the whole thing can be easily recycled.
Multi-Sector Circular Economies
The circular economy is not just useful for the environment. It can also help to reduce production costs, create jobs and stimulate new markets.
It's a good way to think about how we do things differently in the future. There are already some examples of this type of economic system being implemented today:
In 2018, Walmart announced it would be sending its packaging waste to companies like Closed Loop Partners who will turn them into products such as plastic panels or insulation materials.
In the same year, Unilever began using recycled ocean plastic in their products sold under brands such as Dove and Axe Body Spray (the world’s first).
Circular economies are a promising solution to the problems of our current linear economy. They have been proven in many industries and countries around the world, and one day they could be the standard way we design products and services.