A circular economy is a pretty easy concept to grasp. For individuals, it involves recycling and upcycling broken or unwanted products. However, for corporations or a complete economy, it can be a bit more complicated to implement.
Its basic premise is to create products with the ultimate goal of zero waste or very little waste. Where corporations and manufacturers are concerned, this involves creating an object with the idea that once that object’s original use is complete (and it can no longer be repaired), it can then be broken down and either recycled, reclaimed by the earth or upcycled into a new object. That is, moving from the thought of consumption to the idea of intentionally designing out the waste which would otherwise fill our landfills.
The 3 basic principles of circular economy are:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural systems
Design out the waste and pollution
This principle revolves around the materials and components originally used to make the product. The materials may need to be made with a new biological formula so that they can be made to be biodegradable or more durable so that it will last for years.
Where components are concerned, this involves working with more streamlined and standardised components. These would then be able to be used in several different objects or products so one item could be cannibalised and parted out to repair something else. This would mean that when a product broke, only a small part would be thrown away (or nothing at all) and the product would either be repaired or parted out to fix other products.
Another principle would be to find materials that don’t harm the earth when they break down. Ideally these materials would break down and return to a harmless state so that they don’t sit in a landfill for the next 20 years or more.
Keep products and materials in use
This goes back to the “Design out the Waste & Pollution” idea. If the materials are well made and parts and components are more standardised, they can be used over and over again (to build new items or to repair other items to be put back into use).
It’s a constant circulation of reuse and recycling from one item to the next, eliminating tons of waste from our planet and in the process maybe even sparking some new creative minds.
The scientific ideas needed to create this new biology of materials will come from new young minds brought up to see this is possible. Imagination pushes people to see what can be, beyond what is. As ideas develop, new creations are built and then built on, developing an ever increasing ecology of reusable and recyclable products.
Regenerate natural systems
This principle involves the regeneration of natural resources instead of using them up to an irreparable state. For example, replacing as many trees as we use, and then remembering the number of years they need to grow.
When organic waste is generated from the production of products, that organic matter (waste) should be returned to earth to restore and feed the soil and its organisms wherever possible. When that is not achievable and the materials can’t be returned to the earth, the components need to be redesigned to find a more eco-friendly alternative. Our planet must be fed and healed the same way our bodies are fed and healed. The food and wounds are different than those of our bodies, but the premise is the same. We must learn to respect our planet and what we get from it.
These are simple concepts which I believe most people would love to see implemented all over the world. Today there is a resurgence of upcycling of all kinds of products in one form or another. To advance this concept, corporations need to design and produce with these ideas in mind. It will take forethought and work when putting together an idea to fit the circular concept.
As we build on and begin to use these ideas, a circular economy is a natural progression that will come from it. As more and more entrepreneurs and companies work towards these types of products, we hope others will learn and continue to build on the ideas.
It’s a complete shift from where we have been in the past and it will be a slow process, but what becomes of its eventual transformation is resilience for the planet as a whole as well as a much stronger economy.
Little Eco Shop offers a range of products which support a circular economy such as our beautiful upcycled Bee Homes, the innovative rCUP (the team who designed this cup was led by a former Dyson designer), and Onya’s range of products made from rPET (recycled plastic bottles).
Ensure you check out our range of eco-friendly, sustainable, reusable and plastic-free alternatives at Little Eco Shop (www.littleecoshop.com)