In the past 50 years, the population of the world has more than doubled however resource consumption has more than tripled. This is alarming as at the same time as our population grows, our finite resources are diminishing. Clearly, our current economic system is failing us at a time when we need it most. Surely there’s a better way?
So, what exactly is a circular economy?
Our economy is currently built on a linear concept, which uses resources in the following way:
This take, make and throw-away approach means that as a “disposable” society, we continue to generate waste at an unmanageable rate. A vast majority of our waste is simply discarded, in oceans or landfills. Research has found that more than two thirds of the material flowing through the economy (e.g. the carbon from fossil fuels) is emitted as pollution or disposed of as waste.
In contrast, a circular economy aims to allow materials to remain in circulation for as long as practically possible, and at their highest value use. If something is no longer useful in its present form, it must find a new use, while still meeting quality standards.
A circular economy has positive, society-wide benefits, and can help ensure long-term resilience. The circular economy is based on three main principles:
- Active designing out of pollution and waste
- Keeping products and materials in use
- Regenerating natural systems
A circular economy allows for resources to either be reused or renewed, or returned safely back to nature. When you use resources sparingly and recycle responsibly, the impact on our planet is significantly reduced.
Benefits of a circular economy
- Reduced dependence on raw materials
- Less environmental damage caused by resource extraction
- Less pollution
- Reduction in manufacturing costs
- Increase in national productivity
- Creation of new jobs
- Improved soil and waterway quality
Why a circular economy is more important now than ever
The current global pandemic has exposed the risks and vulnerabilities with existing production and consumption systems. Plus, it’s changing the demand for raw materials and the way supply chains work, with commodity prices falling as a result of the curtailing of manufacturing activity. We are also experiencing a decline in consumer demand worldwide.
A circular economy can change all this, and allow for both short-term supplies of necessary materials and long-term resource security.
On top of this, many Australians have experienced job losses or reduction in hours, and a subsequent reduced income during the recent COVID-19 health crisis. We can no longer afford to spend our money wastefully on buying new products and resources – but are increasingly turning to recycling, reducing and reusing to help us navigate this crisis.
Plus, while our lives were on pause, many of us were able to gain a little perspective. We got to see first-hand, how much power and water we use, how much petrol we can save, how much food we waste. These realisations are leading to a shift in attitudes towards the environment that is both necessary and timely.
Changing our mindset
Creating a circular economy will require an enormous cultural shift to really take off. Behaviour change is a huge and important part of preserving the environment. The global pandemic might well turn out to be just the catalyst we need to turn our consumerist society into something much more sustainable and circular.
Here at NuGrow we’re all about creating change – not just environmental change but behaviour change as well. Our innovative practices turn waste into something useful, valuable and healthy, while our products help to minimise waste, revive land and regenerate soil.
Waste products generated by communities, industries and governments, are re-directed to NuGrow’s advanced recycling facilities where they are turned into high quality composts and soils. Those products become the heroes of our revegetation projects, where we apply them at the same time as grass, native and other plant seed to set the foundation for new life.
Every day at NuGrow, compost creates environmental, social and economic value, not just once but over and over again. NuGrow firmly believes in no wasted opportunities. Waste has value and is not just something to be disposed of. Maybe the cultural shift already caused by the pandemic will prove to be just the impetus we all need to truly embrace a circular economy.