So, what’s all the fuss about a circular economy?

You might have heard the words ‘circular economy’ being thrown around in recent times, and perhaps wondered what all the fuss was about. The term ‘circular economy’ is not just a modern buzzword, and a circular economy is not just an environmental nicety – it’s crucial for our future survival. The benefits of moving from our current linear economy to a circular economy are clear – and vital to a sustainable future. Here’s what you need to know.

What’s wrong with a linear economy?

Our ‘disposable’ society has long adopted a take, make and throw-away approach to resource use, which is known as a linear economy approach. Under a linear paradigm, virgin resources are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used and then disposed. What this means is that we continue to generate waste at an unsustainable rate, which is simply discarded into landfills or oceans.

Clearly, there are a lot of problems with this approach. The magic of the ‘disposable society’, where we merely place our rubbish out of sight rather than actually dealing with it, is a mirage – because nothing in the universe can be destroyed.

The problems caused by a linear economy are many and varied, and include:
  • A very heavy dependence on finite raw materials, whose extraction causes a great deal of environmental damage
  • Enormous amounts of pollution
  • Very high manufacturing costs
  • Decreased soil and waterway quality

We don’t have enough finite resources to sustain current consumption levels – which means we’re going to run out in the not-too-distant future. In fact, current estimates suggest that we’ll use up all our virgin materials by 2050 – a frightening prospect indeed.

To truly move forward into a sustainable society, we need to introduce new thinking about resource use, and eliminate the concept of waste. We need to stop thinking about resources and waste, but instead, think about material management and how best that can be done.

The answer – a circular economy

A circular economy is based on restorative and regenerative design and should reduce our negative impacts while making more positive ones.

The key tenets of a circular economy are:
  • Building recyclability into resources at the design stage, by designing products that are made to be recycled, repaired or reused. Waste is eliminated through better design. The focus is on innovation, rather than better waste management.
  • Designing with efficient production processes that use minimal energy and water in mind.
  • Sourcing raw materials that are recycled or sustainable, and reducing the extraction of finite raw materials.
  • Aiming to reduce waste and environmental impact.
  • Maintaining products at their highest possible value for the longest possible time.
  • Seeking and using renewable power sources in both producing and transporting products.
  • Ensuring the presence of sufficient collection systems and recycling facilities for products which have reached the end of their initial usefulness.

We need to begin with the end in mind, and change our mindset and start thinking about waste as a resource, rather than something merely to be disposed of. Any alternatives to tossing something in the bin should be considered and explored. We need to make the most of what we already have in a never-ending cycle of reusing and recycling products that keeps the wellbeing of future generations in mind. By taking waste and turning it into productive resources, we can assure our future – which is something we should all be working towards.

If it sounds a little overwhelming, you’re not alone. These are lofty aims, and ones which the ordinary businessperson may feel they can do little to contribute towards. However, there you’d be mistaken. There are plenty of options for businesses to become more circular – and here at NuGrow, we can help you take the first steps on that path. From recycling your plastic waste and coffee cups, to using sustainable recycled products in your landscaping, to revegetating degraded landscapes, we can help you take the circular economy out of the realm of theory and into the realm of practice.

We have delivered countless circular economy projects over the past few years, helping many businesses decrease their environmental harm and increase their environmental good. The journey towards a circular economy has well and truly begun, with NuGrow leading the way in unlocking value from waste resources right here in Queensland. Get in contact to find out how we can help your business join the vital shift towards a circular economy today.

Let’s all go circular!