Today, most of the materials we lose, and often after just one short use. In industries such as fashion and plastic packaging more than 80% of all materials in our products and services are destined for landfill or incinerators, with a significant amount also leaking out of the system and into natural environments. They are part of a take-make-waste model. We take finite resources, use them only for a short period of time, after which they are lost from the economy. This is an enormous loss. We miss out on the opportunity to keep products and materials in circulation, and with it all the creativity, labour, and energy that went into them.
That’s why we need to adopt a fundamentally different approach in the way we create the products, services, and systems around us. We need to look ‘upstream’ to tackle the challenges we are facing — tackling them at the design stage rather than treating the symptoms of problems. We need to look at systems as a whole to understand how our creations fit into the bigger picture. And we need to have an inspiring vision and framework that can work in the long run.
The circular economy offers such a framework, built on the principles of eliminating waste and pollution from the outset, keeping products and materials in use at their highest value, and regenerating natural systems. Just like in nature, by design everything is food for something else — materials flow from one (life)form into the next. It is a model that can work for aeons. Just like it has in nature for 3.8 billion years.
By decoupling economic activity from linear material flows, it is a model that goes beyond “doing less bad” to being one of regeneration. Therefore, the more we do of the circular economy model, the better the results — for customers, businesses, society and the environment. It’s about designing better solutions for people and meeting needs within a regenerative system.
Photo by USGS on Unsplash