Lesson 2: Introduction to the Circular Economy

Source: Circular economy: definition, importance and benefits | News | European Parliament (europa.eu)

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption, which involves sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible. In this way, the life cycle of products is extended.

In practice, it implies reducing waste to a minimum. When a product reaches the end of its life, its materials are kept within the economy wherever possible thanks to recycling. These can be productively used again and again, thereby creating further value.

This 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.

The Circular Economy leads to

  1. Longer lasting products: In the circular economy, products are designed and manufactured with durability and longevity in mind, so that they can be used for as long as possible. This means that consumers can rely on their products for longer periods of time, reducing the need to purchase replacements and minimizing the amount of waste generated.
  2. Products that are produced and used in a way that conserves resources: The circular economy encourages the production and use of products that are made with recycled or renewable materials, and that are designed to be used in a way that conserves resources. This includes designing products to be easily repairable, upgradable, or reusable, so that they can be kept in use for longer periods of time, reducing the need for new resources and minimizing waste.
  3. Higher recycling rates: The circular economy aims to maximize the amount of material that is recycled and reused, so that as little as possible ends up in landfills or incinerators. This is achieved through improved collection and sorting of materials, as well as designing products with recyclability in mind.
  4. Less waste production due to packaging, products that are quickly used up, discarded, or difficult to repair: The circular economy addresses the issue of waste generated by products that are quickly used up, discarded, or difficult to repair by designing products that are durable and made to last, and by reducing unnecessary packaging. This approach not only reduces waste, but also saves resources by reducing the need for new production. Additionally, by designing products that are easy to repair, consumers are encouraged to keep using the product rather than replacing it, which further reduces waste.
  5. Reduced greenhouse gas emissions: The circular economy can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by minimizing the amount of waste generated and reducing the need for new resource extraction and production.
  6. Cost savings: The circular economy model can lead to cost savings for businesses through reduced waste and improved resource efficiency.

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