What is The Circular Economy?
The circular economy is a model whereby existing materials and products do not lose their value; instead, they remain in circulation for as long as possible.
To transition to a circular economy, the way we design and create products would factor in important issues such as waste and pollution and lead to products being more durable, repairable and reusable. Currently, the economy relies on a linear model, where products are designed to be brought, used and then thrown away, which yields high profits for manufacturers and companies, but high environmental costs due to the waste and pollution produced.
Why Is a Circular Economy Important?
Adopting a circular economy would help tackle global issues such as climate change, pollution, waste and biodiversity loss. This is because these factors would be present in the design and production process of products, unlike the current model where products end up in landfills, as there isn't an emphasis on their lifecycle during the design process.
Working towards a circular economy would also benefit the economy. For example, the New Circular Economy Action Plan adopted by the European Union (EU) could create 700,000 jobs throughout the EU by 2030. Governments and international organisations play a pivotal role in driving the circular economy by creating policy frameworks to ease the transition, but consumers also play a strategic role in this process.
How You Can Take Part?
Consumers play a large role in trying to create a sustainable economy, so transitioning to a circular economy depends a great deal on consumer behaviour. Within developed countries, products are largely seen as disposable and replaceable, as is evident through the popularity of fast fashion brands. For this to change, circular economy principles such as repair, reuse and recycling would have to play a larger role in consumer behaviour.
Yet, consumers can also help drive this transition themselves. As a consumer, you can go zero- waste by purchasing products from companies that rely on circular principles.
Examples of Circular Economy Companies
Over the past few years, there’s been a rise in companies who adopt circular principles.
The following list details a few of these companies, alongside companies who are investing in circular principles:
Library of Things is a social enterprise that allows people to rent various items such as drills and sewing machines at affordable prices. Their mission is to make borrowing better than buying for people and the planet.
Toast Ale is a craft beer company. The company sources its ingredients from surplus food and is on a mission to tackle food waste. It uses the heel end of loaves that would usually be discarded by the sandwich industry. Alongside combating food waste, the company donates all its profits to charity.
Ikea is committed to becoming 100% circular and climate positive by 2030. The furniture and home furnishing company has set out a number of goals to help it achieve these commitments, from designing circular products to using renewable or recycled materials, the company is working hard to transition to a circular economy.
Patagonia is a longstanding advocate of adopting sustainable practices throughout its business operations. A certified B Corp, the company operates the Worn Wear program for customers to trade in their old patagonia products to give them a new lease of life.