Since the Industrial Revolution’s dawn, a linear consumption model has driven the global economy. This linear model involves making products, taking or using products, then disposing of or throwing away these products once their first life has ended. But we can’t truly throw anything “away” when we all share one planet: “away” is always somewhere, whether that be a landfill, a trash incinerator, or even in our environment.
This linear approach to consumption has left modern society with vast economic and environmental challenges, including a plastic pollution epidemic and a climate emergency. Now there’s a better way. A new economic model has emerged that better respects and utilizes the Earth’s natural resources in recent years. That approach is the circular economy, “an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design.” Society is now shifting toward a circularity-focused model for many products and services in diverse industries from energy to manufacturing. This economic transformation will pay dividends for our economy, health, and planet.
How the Circular Economy Works
In a circular economic system, every effort is made to design waste out of a production system’s manufacturing and consumption phases. Wherever possible, raw materials are preserved and reused or recycled into a new product. See an example here.
The Circular Economy in Action
As our global economic paradigm shifts from a linear to a circular model, many opportunities exist for innovation and creativity in applying circular principles to both products and services.
A circular service approach would include a car-sharing membership program or a monthly clothing rental service.
These peer-to-peer or sharing models allow more than one person to share the same product, leveraging excess capacity by keeping a single product in use more often.
A circular product approach would include refurbishing computers for resale or converting animal manure back into useful products like renewable natural gas and fertilizer. These business models recapture the value of the raw materials within manufactured goods or waste and recirculate these resources for reuse within the economy rather than disposing of them.
The circular economic transformation is driving innovation in both products and services across manufacturing, transportation, and other major industries.
Circularity at Brightmark
Brightmark is a circularity-focused company that creates solutions to eliminate waste and reuse our resources. We leverage two primary technologies, plastics renewal or advanced plastic recycling and anaerobic digestion, to promote circularity in two key sectors: plastics and packaging and food and agriculture. We’re disrupting waste streams wherever we see that we can improve circularity, including children’s car seats, boat shrink wrap, and even animal manure.
- The Ellen MacArthur Foundation website: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/
- CNA Insider Closing the Loop video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EfsD7xNLIo
- The World Economic Forum’s circular economy program: https://www.weforum.org/projects/circular-economy/