What Is The Circular Economy?
Some circular things are a bit rubbish really. Mini-roundabouts that no one seems to know how to use. Coasters that get stuck to the bottom of your mug. One-way systems in supermarkets.
But then, some circular things are downright fabulous. The circle of life. A wheel of cheese. Wheels in general. And our personal fav? The circular economy.
Great. But what is the circular economy?
We’re glad you asked. Before the idea of the circular economy went mainstream, the linear economy ruled the roost. Raw natural resources (like crude oil) are taken, transformed into products (like plastic), to be used and then disposed of - usually in landfill or incinerators. Obviously that’s taken its toll on the environment.
A circular economy model takes the end of that line, and instead of disposal, whips it straight back around to the start - turning those finished products back into raw materials or ready-made things.
This process cuts down, and in some cases, eliminates waste. Composting biodegradable waste, or reusing, remanufacturing, and recycling things that don’t naturally degrade. The circular economy also means cutting down the use of chemical substances - which helps to regenerate natural ecosystems - turning towards renewable forms of energy.
For a fancier definition, the World Economic Forum says the following:
“A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It 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.”
Fine but what’s this got to do with me?
Our Earth’s resources are finite - once those raw materials are gone, they’re gone. We simply can’t manufacture raw materials.
But with the growing world population, and with that, a growing pool of consumers hungry for new products - those resources are being used at a faster rate than ever. Whether it’s oil, water, or precious minerals - our planet’s natural resources are being rapidly depleted.
And when a country doesn’t produce the raw materials needed to manufacture its products? It has to rely on imports - adding another layer of emissions into the mix. Add to that the fact that extracting and using raw materials has a major impact on the environment - increasing energy consumption and CO2 emissions - you can see the perfect storm created by the linear economy.
So what does the circular economy look like in reality?
Fast fashion has been in the news a lot lately, for all the wrong reasons. There’s the problem of items being made and sold cheap to quickly be thrown away, and the reality of how damaging the production of each new item is. The simplest way of combating this is by buying and selling clothes second hand. Marketplaces like Depop, eBay and Facebook all encourage the circular economy model by asking us to give unwanted items another chance.
But what about the clothes that eventually wear out? There’s only so many holes you can sew up, after all. For truly worn-out items look to reuse old clothing as household cleaning rags - or look to recycling schemes that specialise in textiles - your old t-shirt might end up being used to create a new one!
When it comes to the stuff we eat, sadly as much ends up as waste than on our plate. But there are systems being put to use to combat that. The first is to reduce the volume of surplus food created in the first place - though this involves a lot of forward planning.
We can also make an active effort to donate our excess food to food banks, shelters, and soup kitchens - our food is much better for feeding people than rotting in the bin! Anything that can’t be used to feed people can be used to feed livestock - with the added benefit that it’ll end up back in the food chain anyway. We can then provide waste oils for rendering and fuel conversion and food scraps for digestion to recover energy, before finally using anything leftover to create compost, which can then be used to grow more food! The circle of food life - who doesn’t love it?
One of the planet’s worst culprits when it comes to e-waste and ‘disposable’ items made of previous raw materials, is the tech industry. Planned obsolescence is prevalent, with manufacturers keen to sell you the shiniest and newest device, despite it bearing much resemblance to its predecessor. In short, the technology industry is far from being planet friendly.
We should be encouraging the extraction of reusable raw materials for old phones. For example, there is 100x more gold in one ton of mobile phones, than in a ton of the ore from which gold is extracted (read that again). Collection of resources from electronic equipment produces substantially fewer carbon dioxide emissions than mining. So when your second hand device has had its day, be sure to check out local recycling schemes for sustainable disposal.
How Doji makes it easy for you to save the world from e-waste
You can always extend the lifespan of unwanted tech. Doji’s entire business model revolves around giving devices a new lease of life. Our ‘circular economy’ marketplace gives you the opportunity to both buy and sell used devices, which means we divert thousands of phones away from landfill and right into your pocket.
While many elements of the circular economy rely on systematic change from the very top, as with all things green, there are always things we consumers can do to encourage more sustainable practices.
Buy less, reuse more, and recycle anything you have leftover. And that new iPhone you’re eyeing up? Consider getting the ever so slightly earlier model for a fraction of the price, right here on Doji.