DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LINEAR AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY?
To put it simply, in a linear economy we mine raw materials that we process into a product that is thrown away after use. In a circular economy system, we close the cycles of all these raw materials. Closing these cycles requires much more than just recycling.
Figure 1. Lineal and circular economy system.
A circular economy follows the 3R approach: reduce, reuse and recycle. Resource use is minimized (reduce). Reuse of products and parts is maximized (reuse). And last but not least, raw materials are reused (recycled) to a high standard.
FROM ECO-EFFICIENCY TO ECO-EFFECTIVENESS
The perspective on sustainability is different in a circular economy than in a linear economy. When working on sustainability within a linear economy, the focus is on eco-efficiency. This is to minimize the ecological impact for the same output. This will extend the period in which the system becomes overloaded (Di Maio F. et al, 2017).
Within a circular economy, sustainability is sought in increasing the eco-effectiveness of the system. This means that not only the ecological impact is minimized, but that the ecological, economic and social impact is even positive (Kjaer, Pigosso et al. 2019).
Figure 2. Difference between Eco-Effectiveness and Eco-Efficiency (Ellen Macarthur Foundation, 2016).
What are the disadvantages of the current linear economy?
The linear economy results from business practices that assume a constant supply of natural resources. This has resulted in the take-make-dispose mentality. This mentality is based on the extraction of resources, the production of goods and services and the disposal of post-consumer waste. However, this approach is coming under increasing pressure because of its environmental and economic disadvantages.
All three steps of the “take-make-dispose” mentality affect ecosystem services in different ways. The collection of raw materials leads to high energy and water consumption, emissions of toxic substances and disruption of natural capital such as forests and lakes. Production is also often accompanied by high energy and water consumption and toxic emissions. Eventually, when these products are discarded, space is taken up from natural areas and toxic substances are often also emitted.
This linear economic model also jeopardizes the supply of materials. This uncertainty is caused by fluctuating raw material prices, scarce materials, geopolitical dependence on different materials and increasing demand.
What are the economic benefits of the circular economy?
The United Nations Environmental Plan (UNEP) calculated that in 2050 the global economy would benefit from more effective resource use by $2 trillion a year (UNEP, 2017). In a circular economy, this gain would certainly be achieved. On the one hand through increased turnover from new circular activities and on the other hand through the creation of more functionality from the same number of materials and means of production.
The development, production and maintenance of these circular products requires a specialized workforce, which will increase these jobs. On the other hand, there will be less demand for the extraction and processing of raw materials, which will reduce the number of less specialized jobs. This will increase the value of labour, which is good for employment and GNP (WE Forum, 2017).
What are the environmental benefits of the circular economy?
The initial goal of the circular economy is to have a positive impact on the ecological systems, which will not deplete or overload them.
This is reflected in the ecological benefits of the circular economy. For example, a circular economy emits less greenhouse gases, the soil, air and water remain vital and nature reserves are preserved.
What are the benefits for businesses?
The benefits of the circular economy translate into opportunities for entrepreneurs. This creates new profit opportunities, a more stable supply of materials, a growing demand for certain services, and strengthened customer relationships.
Within a circular economy there is a demand for new services, where there are opportunities for employees and entrepreneurs. These new jobs and services are according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
· Reversed logistics companies that collect, transport, repair and redistribute products after use in order to be reintroduced into the market;
· Marketers and sales platforms that facilitate longer product life and higher utilization rates;
· Experts in remanufacturing and product repair who facilitate reuse and repair.
How are circular products designed?
Circular design concerns the function of a product, the origin of the raw materials and energy to fabricate it, the way it is used, repaired and discarded, and the business model within which all this happens. With physical products, however, it starts with the strategy with which the product is designed.
Strategies to achieve a circular design:
1. Design to attach
2. Design for durability
3. Design for compatibility
4. Design for ease of maintenance and repair
5. Design to update
6. Design for disassembly and reassembly