What is the circular economy and how does it differ from just recycling?
Future of Plastic Rob Opsomer, Lead Systemic Initiatives at The Ellen MacArthur Foundation describes how we should be thinking not just about recycling, but a whole 'circular economy'.
1. What is the circular economy and what opportunities does it present?
A circular economy rests on three principles: designing out waste and pollution; keeping materials and products in use; and regenerating natural systems.
It is a systemic approach to rethinking how we make, use, and reuse products and materials. It presents an economic opportunity to move away from our current wasteful and extractive ‘take-make-dispose’ model that could generate over US$1 trillion a year.
2. How does it differ from recycling?
While recycling is an important aspect, activities such as sharing, service, maintenance, refurbishment and remanufacturing are also fundamental to the circular economy. It’s about designing products to fit within a system that is restorative and regenerative by design.
3. How can the circular economy help solve the plastics crisis?
So far, most efforts to address the problem treat the symptoms - waste and pollution - not the causes.
If we want to free our ocean from plastics, we have to do more than just cleaning up. We have to fundamentally rethink the way we make, use and re-use plastics so that they don’t become waste in the first place. To do this we need better materials, smarter product designs, and circular business models.