Circular Economy - A Brief Introduction

Updated: Aug 19, 2019

Circular economy? “What on earth is that?” I’m sure you’re wondering. You may have heard this terminology being thrown around a lot of the internet, or maybe not at all. Either way, we’re here to give you a little explanation about this potentially confusing subject.

Diagram explaining the three economic models; linear, reuse and circular

So, in order to look into circular economy we have to take a look at the current economic situation. The current economic model is described as being a linear one. Linear, if you remember from your school days, means runs in a straight line.

As explained by the diagram above, this "linear" approach means that what enters into the economic model, raw materials, then exists as recyclable waste but doesn't return to the model. We extract, use, then dispose.

Do you see the problem with this? An example of why this process isn't working is the dilemma that the world is facing with plastic pollution. If you’re clued up on waste pollution (if not then you’re in the right place, check out this link) then you can see first hand the consequences of having a system where we just discard waste without finding a way to repurpose it. It’s pretty ugly!

So here comes in the solution, circular economy. As you can see in the diagram, instead of going in a straight line, this model proposes a circular direction. This model aims to keep the materials in the system continuously, by reusing them for something else. This means that we don’t need to extract further materials and we have a use for all of the waste on the other end.

Sounds like the perfect solution right? We think so! In this economy, manufacturers design products to be reusable. This way, materials can always be reused. For example, waste glass is used to make new glass and waste paper is used to to make new paper. If we adopt this type of economy we will be able to safeguard our natural resources for the future. This would make sure there are enough raw materials for food, shelter, heating and other necessities.

If you’ve got it this far, and are interested in learning a little more about circular economy, then check out our next post. However, maybe you’re fed up of hearing about different directions (thought we left this in school right) but hopefully you’ve learned a little something.

A very useful link to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation's website explaining circular economy.

By Lydia Gaskell