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The positive environmental impact of circular economy

by DrPrem Jagyasi

Circular economy model uses closed-loop production to keep using resources as long as possible. According to the principles of circular economy, waste material of some process can be the raw material of another manufacturing process. It aims to reduce the use of natural resources as well as the energy consumption. This circular or looped management of resources has the potential to fight climate change, or at least reduce the impact of it, by conserving natural resources. Thus, the environmental impact of circular economy promises to be positive. This economic model also aims to create more jobs and enhance economic growth.

The difference between linear and circular economy

product is manufactured

In the linear system, raw materials are extracted, the product is manufactured and used and the waste is discarded. In circular economy, another life cycle is introduced, in which used items are given a new lease of life, via recycling or reuse. Circular economy’s basic principles have been almost the same for centuries – Antoine Lavosier, the father of Modern Chemistry, noted in the 1700s, how natural ecosystems endlessly recombines elements.

For example, in the natural ‘closed loop’ ecosystem, plants reuse the minerals which they themselves produce.

Circular economy is inspired by this idea, wherein wastes from one process become the resource for another. It helps in reinventing human relationships, financing means and work methods, as it works on the concept of social entrepreneurship, microcredits, crowdfunding and so on.

The tenets of circular economy implementation

recycled art

Circular economy advocates minimum use of raw material in product design and manufacturing and the recycling or reusing of used products. It helps in the formation of a close loop in which products, services, materials, waste, energy and water are used again and again. As circular economy focuses on repairing goods rather than replacing them with new ones, damaged products would have a longer life. The environmental impact of circular economy should be positive, as there is emphasis on conservation, preservation, reuse and recycling. Reuse and recycling would reduce environmental pollution as waste materials would be transformed into usable products, instead of being thrown out into landfills.

Circular economy implementation by businesses and individuals

waste production

The success of circular economy depends on individuals and businesses embracing the concept. Consumers can recycle and sort their waste. This is especially essential in developed countries, where the ‘use and throw’ culture is more prevalent. In Europe, a whopping 80% of manufactured products are thrown in the trash. According to the World Bank, we could see a 70% increase in urban waste volume by the year 2025.

An effective way to reduce the use of new products is by sharing or trading goods thus leading to the reduction of natural resources.

Manufacturers can contribute to the circular economy benefits for the environment, by opting for eco friendly designs and conceiving new processes for utilizing recycled materials. Distributors too can participate in circular economy by collecting old products (for recycling) whenever customers buy new products to replace the old ones. They might help the environment by showing a preference for eco-friendly products.

Service sector companies such as banks can be involved in this movement by financing circular economy programmes and initiatives.

By using recycled equipment and supplies, offices and companies can reduce the use of paper consumption and energy. Farmers can reuse their waste as well as by products to extract energy by the process of methanation. This process is being used globally, in India, Germany, Brazil, United States and so on. It produces a great amount of renewable energy.

The future of circular economy

recycle concept

The need of the world right now is to reduce the use of raw materials in order to preserve them for future generations. This is one of the principles of circular economy. But according to certain experts, circular economy might in fact lead to an increase in production, which might offset its benefits. This might happen due to cheaper prices of reused goods and sharing economy.

Circular economy should be in the control of citizens, and not owned by big corporates, as this might give rise to dependencies and inequalities. In order to flourish, circular economy has to be a part of the movement to reduce consumerism, and to promote the growth of a co-operative economy. Only a few powerful companies shouldn’t define the economy.