Circular economy

Image via Adobe Stock

What is a Circular Economy, and how does it look in 2020?

The world’s economy has proven to be a mechanism that favours the few and has little to no regard for the earth’s limited resources and the environment as a whole.

Circular economy

Image via Adobe Stock

Humans are now experts in consumption and deem excess consumption a right derived from financial freedom.

How did we reach this point in time where consumerism dictates our attitude towards each other, our appetite for debt, our perceptions of what is important, and our disregard for what lies ahead. How is it that we are willing to buy a product that we know will only last for a limited time without the option to repair it? How is it that we don’t care where the materials come from which are found in that product, nor care where the materials go when we are done with it?

Our individual environmental impacts are with the choices we make every day

Certain groups of people have been deemed as greenies for standing up for the environment, being ridiculed for making our lives a little less comfortable by trying to change our behaviour towards the way we consume.

Being a Circular Economy activist comes with many challenges. Telling people about a different way of doing things is one of those challenges. “Let’s walk more and drive less; let’s start our own food gardens; let’s compost our food waste; let’s only buy products that are local; let’s avoid plastics; let’s plant more trees.”

Yet the time is upon us where these actions are no longer connected with activism, but are essential for our well being and our species’ future survival on earth.

The way forward

The way forward for the global economy will not be based on how things were done recently. We need to look further back to a time when we produced our own food, products were manufactured to last a lifetime, and if something went wrong it was fixable. We need to become more resource-aware again. It really is a no-brainer when we are not wasting resources, and products we use retain their value for longer.

This is the essence of the Circular Economy. It is not a philosophy; it’s a cross-sectoral way of doing things that benefits society, our environment, and crucially, our economy. The way forward is human-centric and comes from a combination of our past values with current, and future technology developments and opportunities.

This is the first of a ten-part series on what the Circular Economy is, and what we can do to become active in this space, whether as individuals, groups, or institutions. For further reading visit The African Circular Economy Network and The Ellen Mcarthur Foundation.