You may have heard a lot of buzzwords flying around about embracing a ‘circular economy’, or a ‘closed-loop system’. But what exactly does this mean?
In essence, a circular economy advocates designing products to minimise waste, and maximise efficiency. Seems simple enough! But in order to better understand, let’s compare it to the ‘linear economy’ system that prevails today.
The Linear Economy of Today
A linear economy follows the ‘take, make, dispose’ model wherein we extract natural materials, we process them into a product, we use the product, and then we throw it away. In a linear economy, it is generally the consumer’s responsibility to recycle and extend the end-life of material resources. Unfortunately, this poses a problem because consumer rates of recycling are generally very low. For instance, despite being fully recyclable, only 14% of plastic packaging is recycled. 40% ends up in landfills, and the rest is simply plastic pollution .
Pollution and landfill waste is a large by-product of a linear economy. This type of inefficient production is highly dependent on large quantities of cheap and accessible material and energy. However, as resources become scarce, this type of model is quickly becoming both economically and environmentally unsustainable.
In contrast to a linear system, a circular economy aims to create a ‘closed loop’ of resource use. This philosophy requires much more than simply encouraging consumer recycling behaviour, it requires a complete change in the way businesses extract, build and sell products.
Linear Economy versus Circular Economy
A circular economy approach argues that we should use recycled materials to create new products instead of traditional virgin resources. It encourages the switch to clean and renewable energy sources during production, and reusable packaging for delivery. It promotes innovative product design and systems that support repairs and long-lasting functionality, and finally encourages end-consumer recycling to complete the circle. This system will ultimately reduce waste, increase resource efficiency, and help reduce the negative environmental impact of production as a whole.
Many companies are already embracing a circular economy strategy. For instance, w.r.yuma will be launching zero-waste, 3d printed sunglasses following the closed loop philosophy. Instead of using raw materials, they create sunglasses using plastic from recycled car dashboards and soda bottles. This not only reduces the environmental impact of raw material extraction, it also helps to combat already exiting plastic pollution. w.r.yuma has also developed incentives for consumers to bring back their old sunglasses so w.r.yuma can recycle them. This recycling scheme offers discount incentives where the longer you’ve had your sunglasses, the larger the discount is. This not only encourages recycling, but encourages the longevity of the product’s life.
w.r.yuma is one example of a brand leading the way for more sustainable production practices. Not only does a circular economy help protect our natural resources, it encourages innovation and design making this system an environmentally and economically viable option. Look for brands that are closing the loop, and do your part to join the cycle!