The circular economy is an economic concept that is part of sustainable development and economic concepts inspired in particular by notions of economic permaculture, green economy, use economy or functionality economy, performance economy and industrial ecology, and which emerges as an alternative to the linear economy. What he proposes is that the waste from one industry can be used for recycled raw material from another industry or for its own. Not only that, but also intends to develop products with a view to reuse that keeps the materials in the production cycle.
The circular model assumes that products and services originate from factors of nature, and that, at the end of their useful life, they return to nature through waste or through other forms with less environmental impact.
As designed by its creators, this economy consists of a cycle of continuous positive development that preserves and enhances natural capital, optimizes the production of resources and minimizes systemic risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows.
In the end, this model aims to end inefficiencies in the product’s long life cycle, from the extraction of raw materials to their use by the consumer, through a more efficient management of natural resources, minimizing or eradicating the creation of waste. and extending the maximum life and value of the product. Its goal is to keep products, components and materials at their highest level of usefulness and value at all times.
At European Union level, the Commission has, since December 2015, adopted measures to promote and finance this type of circular economy.
The objective of this strategy is also to reduce energy production, thereby increasing energy efficiency; adopt mobility plans that favor public transport, sustainable mobility and cycle paths; and fight surpluses.
1) Preserve and increase natural capital.
Nature sustains all human life. We use the term “natural capital” to reinforce the idea that non-human life is responsible for the production of essential resources for the economy; it is not just human activities that generate value. Two essential ideas arise from this: when the production of goods and services results in the destruction of ecosystems (think of the pollution of a watercourse by a textile factory, for example), then it is human life itself that is being destroyed – especially that of future generations, which will lack this natural capital. To ensure the preservation of natural capital, it is necessary to penalize activities that destroy nature and promote those that interfere as little as possible with the balance of ecosystems. On the other hand, since human productive activities depend on natural capital, by strengthening natural resources, we are strengthening the sustainable growth potential of our economy. For example: the intensive practice of monoculture degrades the soil. Strengthening the health of soils is equivalent to working for our own food security. Investing in nature is investing in a healthy and resilient economy.
2) Optimize resource production
Circulate products, components and materials at the highest level of utility at all times, both in the technical and biological cycle.
This is synonymous with designing for remanufacturing, refurbishing and recycling, so that components and materials continue to circulate and contribute to the economy.
Circular systems use narrower internal circuits whenever they preserve more energy and other types of value, such as the labor involved in production. These systems also maintain the speed of product circuits, extending their useful life and intensifying their reuse. In turn, sharing increases the use of products. Circular systems also extend to the maximum the use of biological materials already used, extracting valuable biochemical raw materials and destining them for applications of lower degrees.
3) Close the cycles
The idea of a cycle is at the heart of the circular economy. Instead of requiring repeated extraction of natural resources and generating waste, production and consumption should be, as much as possible, self-sustainable. In other words, business cycles should, as far as possible, be closed. In a closed (tendency) economic cycle, waste does not exist: goods are repaired and reused instead of being discarded, raw materials come from recycling instead of extraction, and so on.
4) Promote the effectiveness of the system
Revealing negative externalities and excluding them from projects.
This includes reducing damage to products and services that humans need, such as food, mobility, housing, education, health and entertainment, and managing externalities such as land use, air, water and noise pollution, release of toxic substances and climate change.
5) Promote a new societal paradigm
The circular economy, like the economy in general, is less a matter of management and calculations than of social relations, attitudes and desires. The transition to a circular economy will not take place without fundamental changes in behavior and ways of thinking. Being a user instead of a consumer, sharing instead of accumulating – these new (and old) ways of being in the world are at the basis of building a circular economy, and involving society is central.