As global warming wreaks havoc around the world, experts seek circular economy for a solution. Though we can all agree that a world without trash seems like a far-fetched dream, adapting an economy that stops us from repeating past mistakes is the best next reality. By using our resources sparingly and recycling endlessly, we achieve the best of both worlds. Not only would our environment thrive but so will our economies. Thus, circular economies offer a future where nature no longer has to pay for the price of our advancement.
What is the circular economy?
According to the United Nations Environment Assembly, a circular economy is an economy that relies on products and materials that are “designed in such a way that they can be reused, remanufactured, recycled or recovered and thus maintained in the economy for as long as possible.”
Yet, this concept goes far beyond simple recycling. For the circular economy to prevail, its activity must build and rebuild an overall system of healthy consumption. Thus, products will be built to last and never discarded as waste. Almost every product will be recycled or repaired, giving it a new life.
“Only with a clear understanding of what circularity means, and a comprehensive measurement framework that allows for comparisons between countries or over time, can progress be robustly monitored and accelerated,” the UNECE added. “The lack of consensus to date on what a circular economy actually is has held back the development of standardized indicators, meaning that existing statistical resources only provide part of the picture.”
A straight path to tragedy
Though many experts still do not agree on the strategy of implementing circular economies globally, they all agree that the way our economies operate today is a straight path to tragedy. Almost all of our global biodiversity loss and water stress issues stem from our harmful resource intake. Furthermore, the way our economies are abusing natural resources is the main driver behind climate change.
Since the world has already more than doubled its resource consumption of raw materials during the last three decades, the odds are not in our favor. What is worse, experts expect the amount of extraction to double again by 2060. Thus, according to the International Resource Panel, this would lead to a three to six-degree temperature increase, which can be more than fatal for our world.
Usually, adopting a new, green concept is often delayed because of financial reasons. However, this is not the case with the circular economy. By closing their linear economy, developing and developed countries alike can directly reap financial benefits.
Furthermore, the befits of this economy go further than simple direct gains. “Making our economies circular offers a lifeline to decarbonize our economies,” says Olga Algayerova, the head of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, (UNECE). “And could lead to the creation of 1.8 million net jobs by 2040.”
From trash to cash
Take for example the Gjenge Makers initiative in Kenya. By making construction bricks out of waste then selling them to construction companies, the initiative is saving nature while earning profit. Moreover, young founder, Nzambi Matee, explains that her main concern is keeping up with the increasing demand. Every day, the company recycles almost 500 kilos of waste and turns it into almost 1,500 plastic bricks.
Another example is America’s Kaiyo, an online marketplace that facilitates the repair and reuse of furniture. With almost 15 million tonnes of furniture discarded annually, the company is profiting from helping the environment, albeit in a good way.
The Coronavirus’s role
Since its discovery, the coronavirus is causing ripple effects in all directions. However, experts are optimistic about COVID-19’s role in boasting a circular economy. Matthew Banton, global head of innovation and sustainability at Burger King, stated that: “We’ve experienced challenges during the pandemic that have taught us to think smarter and more efficiently.”
Moreover, Kristy Caylor, founder of US clothing firm For Days, is also optimistic. “We are at a very early stage, but the circular economy is finally a topic making main stages globally. and I hope the attention leads to investment and adoption more broadly,” she stated.