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  • Jeanette Morelan

What Is The Circular Economy? (And How Can We Become One?)

In my last post I mentioned the idea of businesses becoming leaders in creating a circular economy. It's a concept that's worth exploring in further detail.

The idea of a "circular economy" has been around since the 1960s. In contrast to a linear economy, where raw materials are used to make a product and waste is thrown away, a circular economy aims to "close" the cycles of raw materials, so that instead of being trashed, materials are put back into the system.

Source: PBL, 2019
Source: PBL, 2019

Although the term "circular economy" is fairly modern, nature has been putting it into practice since the beginning of time. Just think about the food chain - plants are consumed by animals, which are consumed by other animals, which die and then become food to be consumed by plants. The rise of industrialization gave humankind the opportunity to not only use resources faster than they could be replenished, but also to create products that, once used, were "waste" - unable to be reused or integrated back into the economy. A linear economy is why rainforests are being wiped out at a catastrophic pace and our oceans are filled with billions of tons of plastic. Unless we stop our linear warpath, we will face a day where we've exhausted resources that we cannot replenish.

Returning to a circular economy goes far beyond recycling - it involves a systematic shift in what materials we use to create things, creating products that are built to last and standardized components that are easy to replace, and investing in end-of-life design that makes it easier for materials to be given a second life in new products.

The Circular Design Guide is a great resource for businesses looking to understand a circular economy and how they can start to implement ideas in their own business. But consumers can get involved in supporting a circular economy, too. Supporting businesses that are zero-waste (like bulk bin stores), buying secondhand, and repairing instead of replacing things you own are all easy ways to start.

Returning to our roots by shifting to a circular economy is a job for all of us. If you're a small business interested in learning how Novel can help guide you in this shift, contact us below!

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