What Is a Circular Economy?
Ideas of a circular economy have been discussed for decades by many well-respected individuals, companies, and academics, meaning there are lots of resources for anyone wishing to delve deeper. This article will clarify its relevance to the consumer and provide relevant indicators of what to look for when making a purchase decision. A circular economy (in contrast to a linear economy) seeks to keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover materials at the end of life for further use.
What Are the Benefits of a Circular Economy?
A circular economy approach by companies should be important to the consumer as it will, in most cases:
drive greater resource productivity.
deliver a more competitive economy.
address emerging resource security/scarcity issues.
help reduce the environmental impacts of our production and consumption.
Estimates of the impact of a global commitment to the concept of a circular economy suggest that a reduction of 7 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions per year could be achieved.
How Do You Find Companies Contributing to the Circular Economy?
Attempts are being made to capture companies' commitments to the circular economy through standards certificates. BS 8001:2017 was created by the BSI in 2017 and gives a framework to companies for terms, definitions, core principles and management strategies. More recently the ISO has begun to develop 3 working directives under its technical committee 323. Vendors advertising these standards have clearly tried to position their companies as “sustainable” and we certainly see this as positive.
PACE, the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy, has been created as public/private sector advisory body on the subject and again we see private companies participation as positive.
The concept of the circular economy is not without its critics. Largely these criticisms are based on the belief that the producer is being relieved of their duty to manage waste throughout product’s lifecycles and that upcycled goods will add to the sale of goods rather than replacing new goods.
We recommend consumers take the approach of seeing what strategic initiatives (standards or bodies) their vendor’s associate with and/or what specific commitments (recyclability/offset/buy back) vendor’s make on products.