The circular economy has gained more and more popularity amidst people in business. While the topic is important, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with the conversation or to know what the circular economy really means. “Circularity” then becomes this abstract discussion that people know is important but can’t really say why.
Because understanding the circular economy matters when it comes to reducing waste – particularly reducing plastic waste – sharing a clear definition of what the circular economy means only makes sense.
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF), an international charity that aims to promote the transition to the circular economy, the circular economy is “restorative and regenerative by design”. In essence, it’s designed to limit waste and pollution, keep materials and products in use, and revive natural systems.
This concept is pretty cool because it means that the way businesses strategize, and function is based on closing the loopholes that are otherwise open without thinking about circularity. In other words, decisions are made based on whether or not actions are good for humans and the planet. Everything up to production costs, materials, recyclability, labor, suppliers, and resources is considered.
Unlike with a “regular” or lean economy, the circular economy not only challenges action but requires a change in mindset for decision makers and consumers. For consumers, the idea is to consider if everything we’re doing saves the planet or takes away from it.
For example – Are we saving the planet by buying single-use plastic sprays or can we spend a little more for a re-fillable item where we’re thinking about the re-use and recyclability of the item?
The same goes for making choices to drive separate cars to meet friends at the same location or opting to carpool to limit everyone’s carbon footprint.
The circular economy, therefore, causes a spur of innovation and forces people and businesses to think of robust ways to increase sustainability. In fact, a product's sustainability "is largely determined during the early stage (Ramani, 2020). Businesses recognizing this can design their products to promote circularity. While cost and infrastructure are always factors in limiting the total implementation of circularity - the hope is that with its benefits to the planet, more and more people would consider making decisions with circularity in mind.
As the model provides the tools to take on climate change, biodiversity, and pollution while addressing the needs of society through production and consumption, proper implementation of its processes is key.
This change can only start with us. Day by day, action by action, we can choose to make a difference while helping to promote more circularity in the economy.