The Circular Economy
A much more complex and realistic approach to understanding our lives and the systems in which we live is urgently required. We must adopt an ecological stance vis-à-vis where we find ourselves. "Ecological" referring not just to the planet, but to "the set of relationships existing between any complex system and its surroundings or environment" — That is, to all the systems in which we live.
The Circular Economy is a vision developed out of an ecological stance. Adopted by many transnational organizations and governments and especially championed in Europe, this understanding seeks to align human activities with both the reality of limited resources, and the fact that our activities always affect all the systems in which we are embedded. Proponents of the Circular Economy seek to rethink and retool the way we do business, and the way we relate with the resources we consume in the largest sense.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is a standard bearer for this vision.
From their website:
The Circular Economy:
Today's linear ‘take, make, dispose’ economic model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy, and is a model that is reaching its physical limits. A circular economy is an attractive and viable alternative that businesses have already started exploring today.
The concept of a circular economy:
A circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design, and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.
A concept that distinguishes between technical and biological cycles, the circular economy is a continuous, positive development cycle. It preserves and enhances natural capital, optimises resource yields, and minimises system risks by managing finite stocks and renewable flows. A circular economy works effectively at every scale.
Re-thinking Progress: The Circular Economy:
There's a world of opportunity to rethink and redesign the way we make stuff. 'Re-Thinking Progress' explores how through a change in perspective we can re-design the way our economy works - designing products that can be 'made to be made again' and powering the system with renewable energy. It questions whether with creativity and innovation we can build a restorative economy.
Repair is a fundamental component of the Circular Economy.
The high-level schematic below compares resource flow in our current largely linear economy, with resource flow in a circular economy. The sizes of the circles in the circular economy represent the respective relative resources required by that process to reincorporate material into the flow of resources — re-use consumes the least incremental material, recycling requires the most incremental material. A more detailed schematic is presented on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website, here.