The challenges of creating sustainable food supplies, protecting our biodiversity and curbing climate change are enormous. Considering this, the concept of circular economy has become a topic of relevance among policy makers and sustainability advocates globally. Its popularity can be attributed to the increasing threats to the planet arising from unsustainable use of natural resources and technological innovations.
Circular economy depicts an alternative to the make-use-dispose approach of linear economy. It involves the regenerative use of resources in such a way that waste and pollution is reduced to the barest minimum. It advocates product-life extension and reconditioning activities at all levels. Also, regenerative economy entails divorcing the consumption of limited resources from economic activities in a systemic manner.
Circular economy and benefits for society
The importance of circular economy in the society cannot be downplayed. Its benefits cover virtually every sector of the economy. Closed loop economy creates more competitive business and economic opportunities with direct positive impacts on the environment. According to the Ellen MacArthur foundation’s 2013 report, up to $700billion worth of opportunity exists in the consumer goods sector, which absorbs a huge portion of consumer spending globally. An instance of this opportunity is in the fashion industry where huge savings can be made through the reuse and redesign of several materials. This brings to fore the circular fashion concept which also encourages the making and transportation of fashion products in eco-friendly ways. Supporting this concept is swap.com, an online store where people can sell pre-owned items in the US.
Circular Economy & Climate Change
Furthermore, circular economy presents a means of addressing climate change and global warming through the utilization of renewable energy. In this regard, ideas are being developed into full projects around the EU. One of these is Advanced Substrate Technologies project, which focuses on recovering energy and nutrients from spent mushroom substrates. In addition, the collection and processing of household food wastes to generate biogas and fertilizer is another opportunity with a huge potential for viable income generation.
Closed loop economy is critical to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially the 12th goal which is to Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns. This obviously requires companies to come up with new production methods which closes the materials loop, and the adoption of service-based business models where maintainance and repair can be offered as a value proposition. Dell introduced the use of environment-certified, closed-loop recycled plastics in the production of its computers in 2014. In a related event, Walmart launched a $100million closed loop fund, a five-year action plan of creating recycling infrastructure across US cities. These efforts are being developed to cut down on e-waste and create a means of multi-dimensional revenue generation respectively.
Without an element of doubt, circular economy is a concept that should be embraced by all and sundry. The afterlife purpose of every material should be put in proper perspective in a bid to make traditional waste useful in other forms and contribute to environmental sustainability.