A circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times, distinguishing between technical and biological cycles.

It’s interesting to note that the concept is taking shape with great interest from Governments, Economists, Investors, Public and Private sector practitioners. But it’s not a novel idea in the true sense of the word. For many years regeneration (environmental, economic and physical) projects have been major determinants of global competitiveness, playing a lead role in the socio-economic development. What has become clear is that capital investment with a ‘regenerative design’ leads to high rates of return, measured in terms of local economic growth, business competitiveness and productivity improvements. Such an approach would consider a project’s cost-benefit analysis as well as the ESG (environmental, social and governance) impacts to optimise its outcomes.

What does Circular Economy mean?

A Circular Economy is driven by the desire to use the value in products we already have that might previously have been thought of as waste. But a transition from the traditional linear economy where we use raw materials to make a product, use it and then discard that product once it has ceased to function, or simply becomes out-dated, requires changes in product design, the manufacturing process, supply chain, consumer perception and attitude. It also requires a change in mind-set of the manufacturers and consumer who have become used to regularly updated models of electronic gadgets in particular.

Why we need to take it seriously

Apart from the issue of finite raw materials and energy sources if, as a society, we are not reusing components and valuable raw materials that are already in discarded products we are contributing to ever growing landfill sites. Many of these are in China and other developing countries where regulations are less stringent than in Europe and the US and the risk to both people and the environment is very real.

Water supplies and the soil surrounding landfill sites where e-waste is dumped can become contaminated, and already has in some places, with hazardous chemicals such as cadmium, lead and mercury. Peoples health is being put at risk, as is the health and welfare of animals; and the ability to grow healthy plants and crops in these areas has been lost.

Useful Economic Resources

  1. World Economic Forum assesses a $25 trillion opportunity
  2. Coara offers a guide to the Circular Economy for businesses
  3. Ellen MaCarthur Foundation promotes the Circular Economy.