The Circular Economy

THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

On the topic of climate change, the most attention to date has gone to fossil fuels, greenhouses gases, and renewable energy. But civilization can move itself far closer to the goal of a livable, sustainable planet by making a related, fundamental change: embrace the circular economy.

A circular economy is defined as one that that eliminates waste and pollution, instead a closed-loop system emphasizing reuse, recycling, sharing, and repair. Ideally, waste and pollution are cut out of the equation in the design phase, and products and materials are kept in use.

This is a dramatically different, but eminently healthier, more efficient, and natural system than the take-make-waste, linear-economy way of doing business that has dominated advanced countries for too many generations. As the Ellen MacArthur Foundation explains, millions of tons of plastic and polystyrene that enter the oceans every year is the result of single-use packaging. This can be replaced by compostable alternatives made from mycelium, from mushrooms, to cite one example.

Another example of the circular economy that is gaining attention is regenerative agriculture, farming and grazing that actually reverses climate change by “rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity.” Regenerative agriculture “leverages the power of the photosynthesis in plants to close the carbon cycle, and builds oil health, crop resilience and nutrient density.”

In October 2018, Circular CoLab issued The State of the Circular Economy in America: Trends, Opportunities, and Challenges. Transitioning to a circular economy is no small task, it found. It will require “the alignment of every process within the economic system,” including energy production, resource utilization, manufacturing, sales, collection, reuse and repair, and environmental regeneration.

But if fully 45 percent of greenhouse gas emissions result from the production of cars, clothes, food, and other products, can we afford not to make the transition to a circular economy?

The fashion industry, too, is undergoing a reinvention to a circular model that is based on the reduce-reuse-recycle mantra as well as efficiency, non-toxicity, and biodegradability. For example, the Make Fashion Circular initiative works to transform an industry in which less than 1 percent of clothing is recycled to a model aligned with circular principles.

CURRENT NEWS

Accelerating the transition to a circular economy

05/31/23
Every day we are reminded why there’s an urgent need to transition to a more sustainable economy. Living in the UK we’ve just had an Arctic’ spring, while elsewhere in Europe, Spain has broken its…
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5.7 How Companies and Communities Can Stop Wasting Time and Start Reducing Waste with the Circular Economy

05/16/23
It’s the last episode of Season 5! Over the past six episodes, we have talked about growing the electrification workforce, how the Supreme Court shapes environmental protections, partnerships between universities and tribal nations for climate…
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Transitioning to a circular economy can cut global plastic waste by 80 per cent by 2040: UNEP report

By Yujie Xue in Shenzhen 05/16/23
The world could reduce plastic pollution by 80 per cent by 2040 if countries and companies implement deep policy changes and transition to a circular economy, according to a report by the United Nations Environment…
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Turning off the Tap: How the world can end plastic pollution and create a circular economy

By UNEP 05/16/23
The report proposes a systems change to address the causes of plastic pollution, starting by reducing problematic and unnecessary plastic use, redesigning the system, products and their packaging and combining these with a market transformation…
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Circular economy: Faster progress needed to meet EU resource-efficiency targets, ensure sustainable use of materials and enhance strategic autonomy

By Directorate-General for Environment 05/15/23
The EU must continue its efforts to reduce consumption of materials and generation of waste to achieve a more circular economy according to the European Commission’s revised Circular Economy monitoring framework published today.
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Advance Market Commitments: Applying Climate Change Lessons To Fighting Plastic Pollution

By Rob Kaplan 05/15/23
With the growing likelihood that the earth’s temperature will warm beyond the four-alarm fire level of 1.5C, we have arrived at a make-or-break moment. What keeps me up at night is that despite the progress…
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Global South circular economy could generate millions of job opportunities

05/09/23
The transition to a circular economy could lead to the creation of millions of new jobs. At the same time, this shift calls for informed policies that promote both job quality and environmental sustainability.
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Back to the future – accelerating the adoption of circularity

By Robert Metzke 04/05/23
Circularity is often presented as a fresh, new answer to humankind’s pressing environmental challenges. In actual fact, ‘circular’ is not new at all. Pre-industrialization, it was the dominant economic model. Nothing was lost or discarded,…
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Towards a Carbon-Free Circular Economy

By Jana Kremer-Homann and Harry Morrison 03/30/23
In this episode, host and Bain Senior Manager Jana Kremer-Homann welcomes Christine Levêque, vice president of collection and recycling at Tetra Pak, and Harry Morrison, Bain partner in London. This episode’s topic is “the carbon-free…
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Beyond Recycling: Reckoning with Plastics in a Circular Economy (March 2023)

03/21/23
As the world considers how to address the growing impacts of the triple planetary crises of pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss, many discussions point toward a circular economy approach as a much-needed solutions pathway.
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Join the Reuse Revolution

02/13/23
10 simple steps you can take to move closer to zero waste and reduce single-use plastic pollution
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Does Tax Policy Support The Circular Economy?

By Aleksandra Bal 01/17/23
The circular economy envisages a shift away from the linear “take-make-dispose” model to a system where products and materials are reused in new cycles. While we are beginning to see a focus on greater resource…
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KEY RESOURCES

Circularity Gap Report 2022 Live Launch: Unleash the power of the circular economy

01/20/22
This edition draws on five years of the Circularity Gap Report analysis to show the power of the circular economy to equitably fulfil our global needs and wants, but with radically fewer materials and emissions.

Understanding the Circular Economy

06/01/21
The business world may be the only area more in love with technical jargon than environmental science. So it’s no surprise that environmental business initiatives lean towards the incomprehensible. Even though 62% of consumers say…

Fixation: How to Have Stuff Without Breaking the Planet Fio

05/11/21
Our massive global system of consumption is broken. Our individual relationship with our stuff is broken. In each of our homes, some stuff is broken. And the strain of rampant consumerism and manufacturing is breaking…

21 Circular Solutions To Avoid Climate Breakdown

01/26/21
Circular economy strategies can cut global greenhouse gas emissions by 39% and help avoid climate breakdown.

How the circular economy tackles climate change

10/01/20
Completing the Picture highlights the indispensable role that the circular economy plays in tackling the climate crisis. It aims to demonstrate how circular economy principles and strategies significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Impact Report 2019-20

07/21/20
With the turn of the new year, 2020 launched the world into a chaos that had long been predicted, but hardly prepared for. Covid-19 held a magnifying glass to the global economy’s flaws—flaws that have…

Greenbiz’s section dedicated to Circular Economy

12/16/19
Up-to-date articles and resources on circular economy.

MORE NEWS

Plastics upcycler GreenMantra’s clean technology for a circular economy

By Rick Lingle   12/03/19  
Diversion of plastics from landfills into reuse is one of the fundamental approaches to a circular economy that’s sparked fresh ideas and real-world innovation over the past months as to how to make that happen.
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The circular economy can be a holistic approach to addressing climate change

By Deonna Anderson   12/02/19  
Circular economy practices are being tested and scaled across a broad swath of industries, and more companies are sharing details about these works in progress.
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What circular economy proponents can learn from lead batteries

By Kevin Moran and Woodrow Clark   11/27/19  
Kevin Moran and Woodrow Clark highlight why they view circular economy plans as the key resilience solution for California’s climate goals, with the nation's most highly recycled product as a model.
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Sustainable Development Undergrads Win Third Place In Circular Economy Competition

By Jason Wong   11/19/19  
The Columbia team impressed retail executives and economic experts with its idea for a company that reuses and repurposes discarded furniture. ...
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Building A Circular Economy: A Society Where ‘There’s No Concept Of Waste’

By Anne Field   10/31/19  
Our current economic model, waste-wise, is heading for disaster, according to many analysts—a world over-whelmed by plastic-filled oceans and toxic trash. One answer, according to a growing number of financial and business experts, is a…
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The Recycling Partnership announces first US circular economy roadmap

By Theresa Cottom   10/23/19  
The Recycling Partnership has announced its first-ever roadmap aimed at addressing systemic issues in the U.S. recycling system and catalyzing the transition toward a circular economy for packaging. The report, “The Bridge to Circularity: Putting…
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5 emerging jobs in the circular economy

By Elisa Wenzel   10/18/19  
The circular economy is celebrated as a trillion-dollar opportunity beginning to penetrate industries around the world. There's no sector or region left untouched by the potential for reinventing systems, products and services in a fashion…
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Launch Of Omocom: Closing The Gap Between Circular Economy And Insurance

By Michal Gromek   10/15/19  
Even when sharing belongings amongst trusted-peers, individuals might feel an underlying unease in the potential conflict that would arise, should the object be broken. Traditional insurance policies are also built on a premise of an…
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Why Blackrock’s New Circular Economy Fund is a Big Half-Step in the Right Direction

By Rob Kaplan   10/14/19  
Last week Blackrock (NYSE: BLK) took a big step forward toward engaging public equities in building a circular economy with the launch of its BGF Circular Economy Fund.
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Circularity and the 45% climate solution

By Joel Makower   10/07/19  
Among the copious reports and white papers released during the third week of September — a.k.a. Climate Week — (a good roundup can be found here) was one that didn’t get much notice, but should.…
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The Circular Economy Makes Way For The Circular City

By Daniel Neiditch   09/24/19  
Today, half of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050, that number is expected to increase to two-thirds. More people living in condensed areas means higher amounts of waste, higher resource consumption and higher…
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3 ways companies can start embracing the circular economy

By Adele Peters   09/22/19  
Even though the primary focus of climate action so far has been shifting to renewable energy, tackling climate change will also require completely rethinking how we make and use products.
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How thredUP is Driving the Circular Fashion Movement with AI

By Sandra Ponce de Leon   08/27/19  
Circular fashion is part of the circular economy, an economic system that at its core is embedded with an ideology of reuse, recycle and refurbish in order to eliminate waste, stop items from going into…
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Clothing and Shoe Subscriptions, the Sustainable Answer to Amazon

By Leon Kaye   08/16/19  
Nike generated plenty of headlines earlier this week when it announced a shoe subscriptions for kids. For any parent who views this back-to-school time of the year with angst, or for any former kid who remembers the ordeal…
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Business Models: from Linear to Circular to Regenerative

By Desiree Driesenaar   07/19/19  
In the 25+ years that I worked in regular companies in The Netherlands as Marketing and Business Unit Manager, I never knew what I am going to tell you now. But luckily the world is…
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HP Takes the Circular Economy to the Next Level

By Amy Brown   07/01/19  
For a company that has been recycling its hardware and toner cartridges since the 1980s, moving to a circular economy was not that big of a leap for printer and personal computer leader HP Inc. Now…
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PepsiCo to Make Packaging Changes for Beverages

By Chris Wack   06/27/19  
PepsiCo Inc. (PEP) said Thursday it is changing the packaging on some of its beverages in a move to reduce waste and promote a circular economy for plastics.
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The ‘Circular Economy’ Rolls Into New York City

By Anne Kadet   06/18/19  
Some companies that focus on recycling and re-use say it’s tough to get most consumers to participate, but they’re ‘on the path to profitability’
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If You Missed the World Circular Economy Forum 2019 — the Elephant is Still in the Room

By Global Reporting Initiative   06/18/19  
"The World Circular Economy Forum brought together more than 2,000 business leaders, policymakers and experts from around the world to present the best circular economy solutions," it states on its website. As such, it reflects…
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Using State-Of-The-Art Digital Technologies To Spring Clean Businesses And Create Circular Economies

By Natalie Parletta   05/22/19  
While global demand for finite natural resources has skyrocketed, exceeding what the planet can sustainably support, innovative businesses are transitioning from linear to circular economies.
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The Future Is Circular

By Erik Kobayashi-Solomon   05/10/19  
Over the last few months, I have been talking and writing about the paradigm shift in the investing world brought about by climate change. “Paradigm shift” is not only a buzzword; rather, it represents a…
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Recycled Plastic Waste Creates Roads

By Patrick J. Kiger   07/13/18  
A few years ago, engineer Toby McCartney was working in southern India with a charity that aided pickers who worked at landfill sites harvesting reusable items and selling them. McCartney discovered that plastic waste they…
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Circular Packaging: The State of Play

By GreenBiz   05/21/19  
A confluence of forces is roiling the packaging industry. The combination of concerns about plastic waste, the emergence of the circular economy, and the blossoming of advanced, environmentally friendly materials is changing how manufacturers and…
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Dell’s discovery: Closed loops require an open mind

By Heather Clancy   05/02/19  
"Circular economy isn’t just about closed loop, it’s about open loop," observes David Lear, vice president of corporate sustainability for Dell Technologies, the massive information technology company. It’s also about having an open mind. That…
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