Since the post WWII industrial revolution, industrial manufacturing has been dominated by a one-way or linear model of production and consumption in which products are manufactured from raw materials, sold, used and then discarded or incinerated as waste. In the face of significant signs of resource depletion, the need for a new economic model is getting attention.
So, what is a Circular Economy? A “Circular Economy” is a higher-level recycling system (“upcycling”) that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. The Circular Economy replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration shifts towards the use of renewable energy; eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere; and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models (”made to be made again”).
At its core, a Circular Economy aims to “design out” waste. Waste does not exist: products are designed and optimized for a cycle of disassembly and reassembly (reuse).These tight component and product cycles define the Circular Economy and set it apart from disposal and even recycling, where large amounts of embedded energy and labor are lost.
The economic benefit of transitioning to this new business model is estimated to be worth worldwide more than one trillion dollars per year by 2025 in material savings (ref. World Economic Forum, “Towards the Circular Economy,” January 2014).