The Circular Economy is a system where materials never become waste but are kept in circulation through maintenance, reuse, refurbishment, remanufacturing, recycling, and composting. This allows nature to regenerate and helps tackle some of our most pressing challenges including climate change, biodiversity loss, and waste and pollution.
The 3 Key Principles of the Circular Economy
1. Eliminate waste and pollution
2. Circulate products and materials at their highest value
3. Regenerate nature
How The Circular Economy Works
The ‘Butterfly Diagram’ shows the circular economy in action. Unlike our current ‘take, make, waste’ economy where materials are used only once and then disposed of, a circular economy shows a continuous flow of materials where products never end up as waste.
There are two main cycles, the technical cycle and the biological cycle. In the technical cycle products and materials are kept in use through processes such as reuse, remanufacture and recycling. In the biological cycle, biodegradable materials are returned to the Earth where their nutrients help to regenerate the planet.
Why is this important?
Our current economy is extremely wasteful. We take materials from the Earth, use them to make products and eventually throw them away as waste. This process is linear and very damaging to our planet.
In a circular economy, waste is designed out of the process, resources are kept in use for as long as possible and when they can no longer be used, they are re-processed into something else. This system is far more economically efficient and better for the planet.
“There is no such thing as away. When we throw anything away it must go somewhere”.
– Annie Leonard
Ways to embrace the Circular Economy
1. Avoid Fast Fashion
Fast fashion is cheap, bad quality and terrible for the environment. Choose to buy your clothes from a more ethical brand or opt for second hand clothing from charity shops or online stores such as Vinted or Olio.
2. Borrow, lease, share
Need a new outfit for a wedding that you’ll probably never wear again? Why not rent one or borrow one from a friend.
3. Avoid single use packaging
Opt for loose fruit and vegetables at the supermarket instead of packaged ones and remember your reusable shopping bags!
4. Try Composting
Composting is a great way to reduce your household food waste, while providing valuable nutrients for your garden.
5. Buy Quality Items That Will Last Longer
Investing in quality items won’t just reduce waste, it can also cost you less. Buying better means buying less often. Check if products can be repaired and how easy it is to source spare parts.
6. Donate Unwanted Clothing To Charity
Just 20% of textiles are recovered for reuse or recycling globally. This means a huge amount of clothing ends up in landfill every year. Give those old jeans a new lease of life by dropping them off at your local charity shop.