Circular Economy For Dummies
eBook - ePub

Circular Economy For Dummies

Eric Corey Freed

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eBook - ePub

Circular Economy For Dummies

Eric Corey Freed

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About This Book

Imagine a waste-free future for your business, your family, and yourself

A circular economy is an economic system designed to save money, eliminate waste, and achieve deep sustainability.No-brainer, right? Circular EconomyForDummies explains why the old way of doing things (linear economy) is fast going the way of the dinosaurs, and it gets you ready to think circular. From business processes and material lifecycles to circular design in just about every industry, this book is a fascinating glimpse into our sustainable future.

Whetheryou'relooking to close the resource loop in your business or develop a greener lifestyle for yourself and your family, this book shows you how. Learn how to innovate for circular economy, how to turn trash into treasure, and how to calculate the (potentially large) amount of money this will save you. And—bonus—you'llfeel good doing the right thing and being a part of our sustainable future!

  • Challenge the assumptions behind the old-school "linear economy" model
  • Learn how we can work together to achieve a waste-free future
  • Save money by rethinking your resource use or business supply chain
  • Reimagine households, neighborhoods, schools, companies, and societies

The future is circular. Buck business-as-usual and learn how to create a circular economy for all!

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For Dummies
Part 1

Linear Is Out, Circular Is In: An Economic Revolution

Recognize the need to switch from a linear economy to a circular one
Evaluate how the linear economy is actually working against you
Identify the key challenges in implementing a circular economy
Chapter 1

Rejecting Waste, Rethinking Materials, and Redesigning the World

Rejecting waste as a necessary output of a global economy
Rethinking material lifecycles as tool to eliminate waste
Redesigning everything to be circular
We humans are all now finding ourselves in a troubling-yet-exciting time of human existence. We’re more capable and smarter than ever, yet we still maintain and perpetuate an issue unique to the human race: waste. Waste doesn’t exist within the natural world; there, every output of a system acts as an input for another. Leaf litter isn’t litter at all, but a source of food for insects and eventually a food source for the tree to grow leaves again next year. The carbon dioxide emitted through animal respiration is harvested by vegetation and replaced with the oxygen required to future support animal respiration. Material lifecycles within nature are circular, not linear. Every output of one systems serves as an input for another.
Though waste doesn’t exist within the natural world, it most certainly — at an extremely accelerated rate — exists within the human world. Though populations and demand for resources continue to surge and the rate at which materials and products are purchased and disposed of increases, so will the creation of waste. To avoid this situation, the modern management of material lifecycles must transition from a linear model (one based on the take-make-waste philosophy) to a circular model (one based on designing out waste, keeping materials in use for as long as possible, and regenerating natural ecosystems). To make this transition, those in charge of the global economy will need to reject waste as a necessary component of that economy, rethink how material lifecycles can be managed to maximize product resiliency and recyclability, and redesign how the human race manages its resources in the future.
In this chapter, we outline the main areas of focus that this book covers and provide some resources for you to immediately get acquainted with the thoughts and concepts behind the circular economy.

Rejecting the Idea of Waste

The current, global economy is based on a take-make-waste platform. Within this management of materials, resources are extracted from the earth (take), processed to form a product (make), and immediately discarded when the product no longer serves a purpose (waste). This management of materials — one where waste plays a critical role — is referred to as linear.
Waste became an accepted component of human life as scarcity of resources diminished. Once abundance was introduced into a large portion of the global economy, there was no need to bother with keeping materials in use. Instead, for some reason, it made sense to the people of that day to simply throw these materials away and start a new lifecycle from scratch. Waste was considered a necessary component of a fruitful and active economy and was often incorporated into the design of products — via planned obsolescence and cheap materials — to ensure a never-ending demand for new products. In addition, by excluding the eventual cost associated with environmental pollution and the impact on human health from material lifecycles, the use of cheap materials has inaccurately been deemed an economically beneficial strategy to make goods and resources affordable.
To create a sustainable management of natural resources, we need to reject immediately the idea that waste is a necessary component of the global economy. In addition, we need to fully design out waste from our material and product lifecycles, by increasing their durability and resilience and by fully recycling materials.
Extracting raw materials from the earth and then shipping them around the world to be processed and manufactured into products that require further shipment before ultimately being used is an extremely wasteful process. The waste associated with the linear economy can be greatly reduced by rethinking waste altogether. Waste isn’t necessary and is instead a resource that has not reached the next step in its lifecycle.

Waste as a driver of the economy

Waste has historically been seen as a necessary driver of the economy. Sales are tied to the amount of a product supplied, which is directly dependent on the demand for that product. Therefore, if you design the product to eventually be wasted, you can ensure that the demand for more products will be sustained.
Many strategies have been incorporated into product design and use to ensure that waste is inevitable, such as planned obsolescence, limited access to tools for repairs, and use of cheap materials. All these strategies ensure that the consumer will have limited access to the product in use and will eventually require a replacement.
Those who supported the idea that waste is necessary to drive demand failed to realize that prioritizing the elimination of waste via repair and remanufacturing creates a different kind of demand: products as a service. Through this setup, companies simply lease out products that were once sold directly to the customer. By way of this transition of ownership, companies maintain revenue by offering maintenance and repair services and are encouraged to develop resilient products rather than cheap, single-use products. The customers, then, receive access to products at a fraction of the cost and don’t need to worry about the time and expense associated with maintaining, insuring, and replacing the product.
Waste is a human concept; it cannot be found in nature. Only when waste is rejected as a concept will the true value of materials be fully understood.

Waste as a resource

Although the scales of the global economy have been tipped to incentivize waste, a major opportunity is missed by failing to acknowledge waste as a valuable resource. You aren’t planning to throw away all your clothes because they’re piled up in a laundry basket. You can wash them and use them over again. So why are all the other materials we utilize seen differently? A resource becomes waste when it no longer has a next step in its life.

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