The Circular Economy: a solution or a fantasy?
The rise in the issue of a climate emergency has got everyone thinking about changing their individual lifestyle to become more sustainable. Globalisation is ever increasing, however, and to solve this global problem we need a global solution. Transforming our world into a circular economy is one of these ideas.
Our current economic system is based almost entirely on consumption. We are constantly creating new things and expanding the world’s markets. This is taking up a lot of resources and is something the circular economy theory focuses on fixing.
The circular economy is presented as a method of using resources where reduction, reuse and recycling of elements takes priority. Traditionally, production and consumption works in a linear way - make, consume and throw away. This current pattern of a linear economic system could be coming to an end and could make way for the circular model.
We all know that short term consumption is unsustainable. We don't have enough space for everything to go to landfill and we need to stop wasting. The circular economy’s aim is to use resources at all stages of their product life cycle. This way production can be reduced to the bare minimum and those items that cannot be returned to nature will be reused, eventually designing out waste and pollution.
This will be achieved by using as many biodegradable materials as possible, meaning if the end of their life span is reached the goods can become part of the environment once more. Where it isn't possible to use eco-friendly materials, it aims to gradually decouple economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. This means reintroducing things like batteries and hardware into the production cycle and using them again in a new piece (recycling). Any waste left over will then be transformed into energy and surplus vegetation will be used as fertiliser.
Companies have also proved to benefit from this theory as reusing their resources is much more cost effective. Their production prices can, therefore, fall, leading to an overall reduction in sale price. This is a positive for our environment and society.
There are said to be ten main principles of how a circular economy should work : (Taken from acciona.com)
1. Waste becomes a resource
2. Second use for those products that no longer fulfil their first use
6. Use energy from waste that cant be recycled
7. Functionality economy - eliminating sale of goods and focusing on rentals
8. Renewable energy
10. Industrial and territorial ecology - optimised management of stock and materials
Could this method, however, mean that we are still propping up the global corporate powers? Instead of diluting control away from the major powerhouses we are allowing them to carry on increasing overall production. The lower prices we may see from a circular economy could in turn lead to higher demand, increasing consumption. Does this mean the environmental benefit will be offset by economic growth?
This theory is ever evolving and growing with lots of governments starting to make it a serious consideration. The European Commission even has a ‘Circular Economy Package’ and produced a report this year on its implementation.
Could this be the solution our climate emergency needs or is it too much of a big ask for a world where consumption so engrained?
FASHION / SUSTAINABILITY
Hi, I’m Freya, a Cornish local who has grown up in and around the sea. Living on the coast my whole life, sustainability and loving the environment has always been a massive part of my lifestyle. I’ve surfed since I could walk and spend 90% of my summers barefoot in a bikini and in the water. Having always lived in a tiny village I’m lucky to have had the opportunities to get out and travel and surf in all the corners of the world. This something I’m so grateful for and has only increased my love for the planet and shown me the importance of keeping it in shape for future generations to enjoy as much as I have so far. In between my University studies I teach surfing and yoga on the beach and pride myself in turning into a beach bum for 5 months of the year. When I’m not in my wetsuit or on my yoga mat I love to discover new cafes and brunch spots with my fellow mermaids and drink all the coffee that I can handle. So far my life has been full of sand, waves and tan lines; just the way I like it.