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.


Join the Reuse Revolution

10 simple steps you can take to move closer to zero waste and reduce single-use plastic pollution
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Even the clothes you donate probably end up in a landfill

By Nell Durfee 06/11/22
Inside a large industrial building in Jamaica, Queens, I sighed, taking a quick break from ripping staples off of fabric. My back was to the windows, but even if I wanted to look outside, I’d…
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These homes are off-grid and climate resilient. They’re also built out of trash.

By Nick Aspinwall 01/04/22
Mike Reynolds never worried too much as the world inched closer to doomsday. In the spring of 2020, motorists lined up in their cars outside grocery stores waiting for food as the coronavirus pandemic first…
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Next Stop for the Tire Industry: The Circular Economy

By 3P Editors 11/29/21
Tires may not be the first commodity that comes to mind when imagining a circular economy. Their numbers are hidden in plain sight. Globally, approximately 1 billion tires reach the end of their lives each…
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Earth911 Podcast: Rent-a-Romper Founder Lauren Gregor on Reducing Baby Clothing Waste

By Laurent Gregor 10/19/21
The fashion industry is a profligate source of pollution, even when making baby clothing. Lauren Gregor founded Rent-a-Romper to help parents find and reuse baby clothing. During the first years of a baby’s life, they…
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Reusable Packaging Is the Latest Eco-Friendly Trend

By Jamie Ducharme 09/28/21
When you toss a plastic bottle into your recycling bin, there’s no guarantee it actually gets recycled. In fact, odds are, it doesn’t. According to the World Economic Forum, just 14% of plastic packaging is…
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Could Seaweed Be Key to More Recyclable Packaging?

By Sarah Lozanova 08/30/21
As consumer demand for more sustainable packaging increases, DS Smith is researching the use of seaweed in paper and packaging products. In particular, the British multinational packaging company is exploring seaweed as an alternative fiber…
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The Shopping Mall Where Everything Is Recycled

This shopping mall in Sweden has everything recycled.
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The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Part 3 – The Role of Policy

By Kezi Cheng and others 06/25/21
Battery chemistries are changing rapidly, and battery designs with significantly lower cobalt content could dramatically impact profitability. One of the biggest challenges these companies face is inhomogeneous input material. Furthermore, solid state or lithium metal…
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The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Supply Chain, Logistics and Profitability

By Kezi Cheng and others 06/24/21
The current battery supply chain is shown in red in Figure 2. Low grade (e.g. 50%) material from mines is refined by a smelter to 97-99%, and further upgraded to battery specifications (99.9% or greater),…
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How digitizing global supply chains will advance the circular economy

By Georgia Sherwin 06/24/21
For all of the wrong reasons, global trade and supply chain logistics have been front of mind this year. When consumers get what they want, when they want it, they typically don’t ask too many…
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The Role Of Battery Recycling In The Circular Economy: Part 1 – Key Technologies

By Kezi Cheng and Others 06/23/21
Only a few major battery innovations (Lead Acid by Plante, Nickel Cadmium by Jungner, Lithium-ion by Goodenough/Sony) have reached significant market penetration since the 1800s. As of 2018, over 90% of large‐scale battery storage power…
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Circularity Gap Report 2022 Live Launch: Unleash the power of the circular economy

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

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

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

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

How the circular economy tackles climate change

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

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

Up-to-date articles and resources on circular economy.


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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8 Things That Moved the Circular Economy Forward in 2018

By Mary Mazzoni   01/04/19  
In their book released in the summer of 2018, corporate responsibility veterans David Grayson, Chris Coulter and Mark Lee predicted a “Regenerative Era” of business. “We believe that as we get closer to 2025, there will…
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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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