A circular economy is just as it sounds, one in which the entire lifecycle of a product can be created, consumed, and disposed of in a manner that limits the amount of pollution used in production and later residual waste. Within this type of economic system, challenges like pollution, food waste, the limitations of recycling, carbon usage, climate change, and lack of biodiversity are being solved and corrected.
The main difference between a circular economy and recycling for example, is that products are designed to be used for more than one use, not simply recycled or disposed of after consuming the contents or using it one time or for a limited amount of time. Instead, the product could be repaired and used again, or cleaned and redistributed again and again. An example of such a solution would be a food manufacturing company that has a program in place for consumers to return the used jar or container for a discount, to be washed and reused again many times over. Companies like RECUP have a partnership in place with restaurants and cafes, where consumers can purchase a reusable cup or bowl for a nominal fee for to-go items instead of a disposable cup and then return the container at any of the participating stores for a refund or to be used again for the next takeout order.
Some benefits of encouraging the growth of a circular economy are ensuring the longevity of rare raw materials worldwide, boosting the economy through innovation and more job opportunities, reducing the amount of energy consumed, and reducing overall emissions from product manufacturing.
According to this article, a circular economy is “a departure from the traditional, linear economic model, which is based on a take-make-consume-throw away pattern. This model relies on large quantities of cheap, easily accessible materials and energy.” Another issue mentioned is the problem of “planned obsolescence” where a company deliberately designs products in a way that limits their longevity, where they are not repairable or usable after a shorter period of time. An example of this is when a company makes older devices incompatible with newer software versions.
On the side of body care and wellness products, taking waste that is already in the environment such as ocean plastics, and using that to create packaging is a way to extend the life of recycled or disposed of plastics. rePurpose Global is an example of an organization that collects plastics already in the natural environment in the form of trash. To learn more about this recycling method and others, read more here.