The circular economy is a new economic and social system that is becoming increasingly popular in Spain: researchers, entrepreneurs, public administrations and companies have already included it in their way of working. But what exactly does it consist of?
This system is mainly based on the production of goods and services while reducing consumption and waste of raw materials, water and energy sources (as defined by the Foundation for the Circular Economy). Its purpose is to:
- Improve economic performance while reducing resource use.
- Identify and create new opportunities for economic growth and boost innovation and competitiveness of the EU
- Ensure security of supply of essential resources
- Combating climate change and limiting the environmental impacts of resource use
The circular economy is the intersection of environmental, economic and social aspects, proposing a new social model to optimize materials, energy and waste to achieve greater life and efficiency in the use of resources.
In this way, resources are maximized and raw materials are reduced, becoming an alternative system to the current model of extraction, production, consumption and disposal, i.e. the linear economic model. Another reason why we need to move towards the circular economy is the increasing demand for raw materials and the scarcity of resources: as the world's population grows, so does demand.
Obviously, the impact on the climate is the main objective, since the extraction and use of these raw materials has serious environmental consequences where energy consumption and CO2 emissions are increased, while with the circular economy a more intelligent use of these would be made and polluting emissions would be considerably reduced.
With the circular economy, absolutely all manufacturing processes and services that seriously damage the environment are reduced, thus extending its useful life and leaving aside the typical 'use and throw away' product, to guide us in a new product based on the 7Rs: Recycle, Redesign, Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Renew and Recover. This is a much more environmentally friendly system where eco-design plays a fundamental role in making decisions in the product design process, optimizing materials and waste to achieve sustainable development.
Europe currently generates more than 2.5 million tons of waste per year. In Spain, for example, our lifestyle of pure consumption means that each person generates an average of 460 kg of urban waste. To ensure that the EU makes efficient use of waste, the European Parliament approved a series of measures to implement the circular economy.
But where did the idea of the circular economy come from? This model synthesizes several schools of thought: the performance economy of Walter Stahel; the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy of William McDonough and Michael Braungart; the idea of biomimetics presented by Janine Benyus; the industrial ecology of Reid Lifset and Thomas Graedel; the natural capitalism of Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawkens; and the blue economy approach, as described by Gunter Pauli.