The Circular Economy

What is the Circular Economy?

 

Currently, we take resources from the Earth to make products.  We use these products, and when we no longer want them, we throw them away. Take-make-waste. We call this a linear economy:

This system is no longer working for businesses, people or the environment. The devastating effects of our current model of resource extraction are being felt worldwide. We cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. We must transform all the elements of the linear economy.

This means changing how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards. Doing so will help us create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet. This new system is called the circular economy.

 

 

A new economic system

 

There are three principles that form the foundation of the circular economy:

  1. Design out waste and pollution
    • Waste and pollution are a result of decisions made at the design stage, where about 80% of environmental impacts are determined. By viewing waste as a design flaw we can ensure that waste and pollution are not created in the first place.
  2. Keep products and materials in use
    • We can design products and components so they can be reuse, repaired, and remanufactured. When it comes to products like food or packaging, we should be able to get the materials back so they don’t end up in landfill.
  3. Regenerate natural systems
    • In nature, there is no concept of waste. By returning valuable nutrients to the soil and other ecosystems, we can enhance our natural resources.

A circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It means decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. It requires a transition to renewable energy sources. The circular economy model builds economic, natural, and social capital:

 

 

Circular Economy in Action

 

Worldwide we are seeing a shift to a more circular economy – even right here in Canada. The following are examples of the circular economy in action:

 

Toronto Tool Library

The average drill is used for 13 minutes in its lifetime. Tools and other equipment have a low frequency use, but are found in many households and therefore represent a high material intensity, underutilized and space occupying item.

The Solution: Consolidate tools from many households into one centralized ‘library’, giving access to the local neighbourhood on a subscription basis.

The Result: Members have access to 7000+ high quality tools, an inspiring and creative workspace and de-cluttered homes.

Unexpected benefits? The libraries have evolved into innovation hubs gathering communities of makers that share design and knowledge; as well as providing training and mentoring for local youth.

Learn more at torontotoollibrary.com

 

Quupe

Quupe is a sharing economy community for neighbours to rent things to each other. The service taps into the younger generation’s tendency to rent rather than buy. Lenders offer their recreational and hobby-oriented items for use, and renters can avoid purchasing items they might only use once. Quupe connects people with resources, taking care of notifications, geolocation, payments, insurance and even delivery.

By promoting the sharing economy, Quupe is helping to decrease consumption and prevent materials ending up in landfill.

Learn more at quupe.com

 

Gerrard Street

Globally we throw away 15 million kg of headphones every year. This is usually due to simple mechanical faults or because of technology advances. How can we capture the value that is being lost in this discarded material?

The Solution: Gerrard Street has designed beautiful, high sound quality headphones that are modular and easily come apart to facilitate repair, refurbishment or upgrade.

What makes it especially circular? The headphones are offered on a subscription basis allowing customers to upgrade/repair for free. This provides incentive for Gerrard Street to provide the most durable product possible.

The Result: 85% of components are reused. Customers get an affordable high quality product and high level of service. Gerrard Street requires less virgin materials to create new headphones.

Learn more at gerrardstreet.nl

 

More Case Studies

 

This introduction to the circular economy was adapted from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. To learn more and to access more case studies and other circular economy resources, visit their website.

 

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