1. What is the Circular Economy
The circular economy (also known as circularity and CE) is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, renting, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products for as long as possible. The circular economy aims to address global challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, waste and pollution by emphasizing the three basic principles of implementing the model on a design basis. (wikipedia) . Humans use the laws of ecology to guide the economic activities of society, with the aim of achieving low or even zero emissions of pollution, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable social, economic and environmental development through efficient and circular use of resources.
2. Principles of Circular Economy
(1) Avoiding waste and pollution from the beginning of design: The damage of economic activities to biological health and pollution to the environment usually comes from the emission of greenhouse gases and toxic substances, which pollute the atmosphere, land and water, and create traffic jams and other problems. Circular economy can fully grasp and recognize these problems and solve them from the design source.
2) Extend the life cycle of products and materials: A circular economy can save more resources, raw materials and labor, thus creating more value. This means that design should focus on durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recyclability to bring products, components, and raw materials back into the cycle within the economy. In order to effectively use bio-based materials, recycling systems encourage nutrients to be recycled multiple times before they are returned to natural systems.
3) Promote regeneration of natural systems: A circular economy avoids the use of non-renewable resources and conserves or promotes the use of renewable resources wherever possible. This not only maintains the earth in a good dynamic balance, but may even repair the earth’s regenerative capacity.
3. The Seven Pillars of Circular Economy
1. Materials are recycled at a consistently high value, with material cycles designed for human time scales and natural cycles.
2. All energy sources are based on renewable resources and materials required for energy production and storage are recycled back into the system.
3. Biodiversity is supported and enhanced by human activities to preserve complexity and resilience.
4. Human societies and cultures are preserved as forms of complexity and diversity.
5. The health and well-being of humans and other species are structurally supported by minimizing toxic and harmful substances.
6. Human activity maximizes the generation of social value in multiple categories beyond economic value.
7. Water resources are sustainably extracted and recycled indefinitely with valuable resources recovered from the water.
4. An Example
Apeel is a great example of the circular economy because it mimics and enhances the natural defences of fruits and vegetables, using plant-based coatings that help to reduce food waste and eliminate single-use plastic packaging. By applying an edible coating made of natural substances found in the peels, seeds, and pulp of fruits and vegetables, Apeel can increase the shelf life of fresh produce, reducing the amount of food waste and plastic waste generated. This approach to packaging and food preservation supports the principles of the circular economy by reducing energy and resource waste, while also promoting better quality food and less food waste for everyone. Additionally, Apeel is beneficial to growers because it allows them to avoid harvesting before ripeness, which promotes better quality produce and reduces food waste throughout the supply chain. Overall, Apeel is a great example of how innovative approaches to packaging and food preservation can help to create a more sustainable, circular economy.
5. The Development of Circular Economy and Its Future
The development of a circular economy is receiving increasing attention as a way to address environmental challenges and promote sustainable economic growth. Society’s transition to a circular economy requires significant changes in the way products are designed, manufactured and used, as well as in the way waste is managed. This shift requires the cooperation of stakeholders from all sectors, including government, business and consumers, to create an enabling environment for a circular economy.
We are hopeful about the future of the circular economy, however, because it offers many benefits, including reduced environmental impact, improved resource efficiency, and new business opportunities. In addition, it has the potential to create new jobs and boost economic growth, while reducing dependence on finite resources.
However, the development of a circular economy also presents challenges, such as the need for significant investments in infrastructure and technology, and changes in consumer behavior. There are also concerns about potential trade-offs between circular economy goals and other sustainable development goals, such as social equity and human well-being.
Metabolic. (2017, February 6). The Seven Pillars of the Circular Economy. From https://www.metabolic.nl/news/the-seven-pillars-of-the-circular-economy/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw27mhBhC9ARIsAIFsETHFtxd5qW_VgKiZPlqFFsLVw9BMoH1gpcq_7hT32D9d5KbU19BjhyAaAqMLEALw_wcB
Working with nature to make food last longer: Apeel. (n.d.). From https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-examples/apeel