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  • Writer's pictureFernando Ortiz

the Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is a generic term for an industrial economy that produces no waste and pollution, by design or intention, and in which material flows are of two types; biological nutrients- designed to reenter the biosphere safely, and technical nutrients, which are designed to circulate at high quality in the production system without entering the biosphere. Biological nutrients include all materials that are organic or biodegradable such as food waste and plant-based materials, whereas technical nutrients that materials such as metals.

The concept of a #Circular Economy is a relatively new concept within the environmental sustainability world and seeks to replace the linear economy of; take, make and dispose but rather take, make and reuse, repair, reduce, redistribute, refurbish and then recycle. In some ways, the circular economy seeks to reach a zero waste target in which all materials are either returned into the biosphere or techno-sphere. Behind the Circular Economy are business models that promote more effective use of materials and resources such as Circular Supply Chain; which aims to use non-toxic materials, renewable and biodegradable materials and targets the supply-chain of the system, the Recovery and Recycling model which looks for values in all material streams and aims at recovering end-of-life products to recapture value and to recover waste and by-products, the Product-Life Extension business model that focuses on lengthening the products useful lifecycle and make products more durable and higher quality, the Sharing Platform which is a business model focused on sharing resources and materials and the Servicization (Product as a Service) model that reduces the concept of ownership but rather customers buy access to a service such as a membership.

The framework behind Circular Economy is very design-based, it builds off of design thinking such as biomimicry, Industrial Ecology, Regenerative Design, Cradle-To-Cradle and Natural Capitalism to name a few- it seeks to redesign how things are made and the materials that go into goods or systems in order to eliminate the concept of waste and pollution and so that everything may become an input or enabler for something else.

My favorite example of Circular Economy is a system that a Japanese farmer designed called the Aigamo Method. This Japanese farmer found in highly effective to introduce ducks into his cultivation of rice; the ducks are able to eat the weeds and insects that may affect the rice plants- thus reducing the farmers need for pesticides or herbicides, but the ducks also fertilizer the rice plants with their own droppings, reducing his need for fertilizer. This organic closed-loop system allows the farmer to eliminate his use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides and to make profits both from the rice but from the selling of ducks as well. In this system, nothing is lost and one organisms waste becomes food for another, in theory waste = food.

The Circular Economy is a highly innovative and amazing solution to many of our environmental issues. If we can apply a circular economy approach to many of our systems that are currently inefficient and ineffective, such as waste disposal and wastewater management, we can both make a profit and reduce greatly our environmental footprints and greenhouse gas emissions.

Nature does not create waste, the simple concept of waste is an anthropogenic idea that we have wrongly developed and which is causing us terrible problems such as pollution and environmental degradation as well as releasing horrible toxins into our natural environment and our bodies. When I think about the Circular Economy, it resonates with Carson's Silent Spring- are we reaching a tipping point in our society where we are filling up our bodies and environment with disastrous toxins and pollutants? I read a statement somewhere that says that "By the Year 2050 There Will Be More Plastic in the Ocean than Fish." Unless we adapt more circular systems, we very well may need to start eating plastic...

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