The Circular Economy: What It Is and Why You Should Care

Circular Economy

The circular economy is a more sustainable approach to material use. In the past, we’ve used new inventions for a long time before we discovered how to recycle materials. This led to wasteful practices, such as burning fossil fuels or creating paper from plant sources. The circular economy is a system designed to reduce the number of materials used and waste produced while improving efficiency and sustainability. By thinking creatively, implementing long-overlooked solutions, and reducing consumption, we can make large-scale change happen.

The circular economy is an approach to dealing with the increasing scarcity of resources. In this system, we extend the use phase of products and materials beyond the point at which they cease to be useful. This extends the life cycle of products and materials and reduces waste generation and destruction of natural resources. It can also help us avoid critical shortages of key materials like metals or plastics. Implementing sustainable practices now will make it easier to avoid future conflicts over natural resources.

In the past, we’ve extended the life cycle of products beyond their designated point-of-use by breaking down products into component parts and selling them. For example, car manufacturers broke down cars into parts such as steel before assembly creating its own problem. However, this process is called ‘extended producer responsibility’ and can be a waste of resources. It’s not ideal when industries are trying to reduce waste by selling off their scraps; instead, they should design products that don’t require disassembly in the first place. A circular economy is an approach that encourages us to separate design stages from material needs, allowing us to extend the life cycle of resources beyond their designated point-of-use in our products.

When we break down products into component parts and sell them, we can recover some of the materials that went into making them. This is helpful in reducing waste generation while making new products possible in the first place. The recycling process transforms recycled materials- such as steel or plastic – into usable forms again. In some cases, processors may even alter components so that they can be used again in new products. For example, Nike recycles discarded athletic shoe parts into new Nike shoes through a process called reverse engineering. This allows them to recover discarded materials and manufacture new shoes with better fit and function than originally intended.

The circular economy is an approach designed to reduce waste and conserve natural resources while promoting innovation and business growth via collection-based systems. To achieve this goal, we need a more sustainable system for managing our waste- both organic and non-organic materials annually and throughout lifetime models use of materials and manufacturing processes. A more sustainable system would allow us to extract resources effectively while manufacturing less wasteful goods. Overall, it would create a less resource-intensive world for humans, animals, and nature itself.

There are some drawbacks to our current waste management system that we must acknowledge before implementing any new system. Our current system generates a lot of waste globally, with an annual average of 900,000 of solid waste in Greater Accra alone. Furthermore, approximately, about 90% of the waste generated in Africa ends up in landfills where it generates massive amounts of toxic gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. Garbage disposal systems need improvements both environmentally and economically in order to become more sustainable in practice rather than just in rhetoric (hence the term ‘circular economy’).

We have lots of work ahead of us if we want to properly manage our growing global trash crisis. But there’s potential for a better way if we work together to solve the problems plaguing our current garbage disposal methods. We can implement creative solutions like the circular economy that encourage sustainable practices without hampering business growth or burdening future generations with scarce resource shortages.

Cover photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash

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