The principles of a circular economy
The model of the current economy has reached its limits, we are all aware of this.
Questions linked to the recent financial crises, the inevitability of the future energy crisis, the increase of the costs of raw materials and the effects of global warming are forcing us to rethink the very foundations of industry as we currently know it.
A new industrial revolution is underway.
To be able to fit in with this new impetus, companies, employees as well as institutions will have to adapt.
The economy of tomorrow must no longer be based on the model of multinationals but rather on that of intermediaries sectors, smaller and more diverse.
On the other hand, the constant increases in industry productivity allow us to consume even more industrial goods.
You can see that the current model has lost control and can only end up in a stalemate:
The quicker and quicker renewal of fashion and the perverted effects of marketing on collective infatuation are all factors that generate an overconsumption of goods.
This overconsumption itself leads to that of raw materials as well as energy, which helps to speed up the exhaustion of planetary resources and increase CO2 emissions.
The impact of this revolution consists in a thorough restructuring of the system to attempt to make it evolve towards a more ecological method of functioning in order to leave aside this destructive dodge harbinger of conflict to access and control resources.
The circular economy is an evolution of our current economy, known as linear.
It copies the principle of natural ecosystems in which nothing is lost, nothing is created and everything is transformed.
Since the advent of the industrial age consumption has continued to grow according to the principle “extract-manufacture-consume-throw away”.
This method of working has several negative impacts on the environment:
Firstly, regarding resource consumption.
Studies show that natural reserves of raw materials, which we thought were inexhaustible, are dwindling considerably.
Their steadily rising use (exponential population increase, programmed obsolescence, fads…) are exhausting earth’s reserves, which in the near future will lead to a high price increase as well as conflicts to control these resources.
Secondly, regarding energy consumption.
The transformation of certain raw materials necessary for manufacturing everyday products like plastic, aluminium, food….consumes huge amounts of fossil energy and therefore causes significant CO2 waste in the atmosphere, whose harmful effects are no longer in doubt.
Thirdly, on the production of waste.
Resources used in the framework of the linear economy are mainly transformed into waste, either production waste or end of lifecycle waste.
This model is no longer viable, it is urgent to drastically change our way of considering industry at the risk of putting humanity in danger.
A circular economy allows an even more environmentally-friendly consumption
From a resources point of view:
All materials are endlessly recyclable (at least in theory).
Like in nature, the waste of some becomes the raw material of others. Using waste as a resource by advocating recycling will clearly allow us to draw less on the earth’s natural resources.
From an energy consumption point of view:
The manufacturing of raw materials from recycled products is a lot less energy-consuming.
Furthermore, fossil energies produce an incredible quantity of CO2.
It is advisable to replace them with much cleaner energies.
From a waste production point of view:
A circular economy advocates the use, re-employment and recycling of commodities instead of throwing them away.
All approaches that strongly reduce the final quantity of waste.
The three pillars of the circular economy for a lasting change of our economy
There’s still a long way to go to see a change in mindset.
The lure of profit, the lack of compassion, the prevailing entropy, the oppressiveness and inertia of the system put in place are some of the many inhibiting elements of a fundamental change of our economy. This change must be carried out at all levels and each of us, consumers, producers and politicians must be involved in a radical overhaul of our way of life.
The circular economy based on three major pillars where each player has its role to play:
Offer from economic players
Industrialists have an essential role in the way forward towards this change
- Regarding energy consumption.
Industries must gradually move towards a supply in sustainable energy in other words go from fossil energy to a green energy that produces less CO2.
- Regarding conception and design.
The products must be designed with the idea of being able to easily re-use or repair them and recycle their components. Here we’re talking about ecodesign.
In manufacturing, the products must be designed in such a way to avoid toxic input and waste.
- The transition towards a functional economy.
This is a concept aimed at reducing product possession and promoting their use
No longer selling a product but a service and making the consumer aware of the use rather than ownership.
Consumer demand and behaviour
Each citizen must become eco-friendly.
A radical change in mindset in our consumption habits must be the basis of renewing our economy.
This will involve simple everyday gestures. Using your car as little as possible, favouring car share, unplugging electrical appliances after using, repairing instead of automatically throwing away, sorting your waste, composting, having a vegetable garden, reducing your plastic packaging, buying second-hand clothes, favouring re-employment…
Little by little, we are seeing actions flourish all around the world. Politicians now need to be aware of the role they have to play in this huge project to change our consumption habits. Education, economy, food, energy, democracy… the change must be everywhere and manifold. Certain habits will be difficult to change and this change may temporarily cause us discomfort. But we’ve been hiding from reality for too long.
It’s now time for action stations.
In the principle of a circular economy we no longer talk about waste but rather resources.
95% of waste produced in the world can be re-used.
The aim is to close the loop and use waste in designing new products so as to no longer draw from the planet’s natural resources.
Everybody is concerned, but the approaches are different when we talk about waste management in your home or in a company.
- In a private capacity, it is enough to limit the volume of waste put in the dustbin as much as possible. By using containers that you can re-use, by composting your organic waste, by giving your waste a second purpose…
For what you have to unfortunately throw away, you have to hone the sorting as best as you can to allow the highest recycling rate possible while limiting the energy expended during the recycling process to a maximum.
- In a professional capacity, every company must reason as part of an “industrial ecology” strategy.
Industrial ecology is quite a recent concept; it’s an environmental management notion and practice aiming to limit the impacts of industry on the environment.
Industrial ecology seeks an optimisation at the level of company groups, industries, regions and even the industrial system as a whole.
It favours the transition of the current system towards a viable, lasting system inspired by the practically cyclical working of natural ecosystems with 4 main objectives:
- Promoting waste as a resource
- Closing “material cycles”
- Dematerialising economic products and activities
- Decarbonising energy
Rome wasn’t built in a day; the path is still long before humanity lives in perfect harmony with the planet.
However, a general change in our mindset is more than urgent if we don’t want to achieve the point of no return!
A study by the Simon Fraser University (SFU) of Vancouver published in Nature magazine shows that a total collapse of the planet would occur by the end of the century.
The study, carried out by 18 scientists, raises several worrying points: the general deterioration of nature and ecosystems, increasingly extreme climate fluctuations and the radical change of the global energy performance. These modifications would end up reaching a point of no return, in other words they would become irreversible. According to the director of the study, until now: “men haven’t done anything really important to avoid the worst because the existing social structures are just not the right ones. It’s as if we refused to think about it. We aren’t ready. My colleagues aren’t simply worried. They’re terrified”.