What is the circular economy? An overview and latest insights

read | March 26, 2021

The circular economy is the future. Our consumption habits need to change to a circular model in order to protect our resources and combat climate change. The covid-19 pandemic has accelerated its importance, growth, and implementation. Here’s a full overview of the circular economy and latest insights to get you familiarised with a concept that is here to stay. 

So what is the circular economy?

The circular economy is the opposite of the linear economy, which follows the “produce, use, discard” model, meaning that we use raw materials to produce things and then throw away when they reach the end of life. This is damaging to the planet, creating a lot of waste and depleting resources. 

The circular economy aims to fight this by recovering and regenerating waste and turning it into new products. In the circular economy, we “close the loop” of raw materials, giving those resources new life by implementing new waste management systems. 

What are the circular economy principles?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, there are three core circular economy principles: 

Design out waste and pollution

It is at the design stage that we determine the factors that impact the environment. And it is at this stage that we need to decide how to create more sustainable and circular designs to ensure that waste is not created, or can easily be recycled

Keep products and materials in use

Reuse, repair, and regenerate products and materials. By doing so, we stop wasting resources and using up raw materials. Our landfills are already full, and we reduce the amount of waste piling up there by giving old products a new life. 

Enhance and regenerate our natural systems

We can enhance nature by creating products that can be returned to the earth and provide nutrients, just like a tree whose dead leaves feed the soil. Focusing only on reducing waste is not enough; we have to also think about how to enrich and improve our natural resources. 

At Ccrave, we only select circular brands that apply these principles in the circular products that we sell.

Plastic-waste watch

Brand: Waltic

Apple-waste shoes

Brand: Komrads

Cotton-waste jeans

Brand: HNST Jeans

Find more examples of emerging circular brands on our website.

How is the circular economy tackling climate change?

The circular economy directly impacts climate change by reducing gas emissions. Currently, more than half of all the greenhouse gases are created by mining minerals and metals, as well as by biomass (plant and animal material). Over the last 50 years, we have tripled the amount of materials extracted, going from 26.7 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 1970, to 59.1 billion tonnes in the beginning of 2020. 

Why are greenhouse gas emissions bad?

Greenhouse gas emissions lead to increases in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which in turn increases the earth’s temperature. The rising temperatures contribute to climate change and issues such as melting glaciers and an increase in droughts, storms, heat waves, floods, and cyclones. 

In order for the planet to become sustainable, we need to reduce greenhouse gases. We need to reduce mining of raw materials and biomass, and implement circularity by designing waste and pollution out. The circular economy ensures that we make the same (or better) products but with less new materials and fewer gas emissions. Currently less than 9% of the earth is circular

What are circular economy action plans and strategies?

In 2020, the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in global lockdowns and work from home adjustments. Consequently, we reached the lowest level of carbon dioxide emissions (7%) since 2010. Great news, but not much was done afterwards to maintain this as the world reopened and countries began opening up between the various waves of Covid. 

According to the Circularity Gap Report 2021, the earth is only about 8.6% circular at the moment, but we need to double this figure if we want to positively impact climate change. There are 6 areas of the economy that require circular strategies, the first three (housing, mobility, and nutrition) being responsible for 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Below are circular action plans to tackle the gaps:

Housing

Built fewer new houses; design houses thoughtfully; work on buildings that are falling apart to encourage re-occupation; use natural and renewable materials such as hemp and wood; incorporate features like green roofs and solar panels.

Mobility

Reduce commutes by encouraging work from home (a practice that will hopefully stay in a post-covid world); improve vehicle design and reduce fuel consumption; encourage shared travel such as public transportation and carpooling.

Nutrition

Promote consumption of unprocessed food rather than processed food, along with a decrease in meat consumption, particularly beef and lamb, which contributes to the highest amount of GHG emissions; offer better options for locally produced fruits and vegetables (even those that look “ugly”), lessening the need to buy produce packaged in unnecessary plastic from supermarkets; bring awareness about organic ways of farming to eliminate the use of synthetic fertilizers.

Consumables

Reduce the need for paper use by making everything digital; eliminate single-use plastic as much as possible; prioritize local sourcing and consumption; educate about greenwashing practices; provide easy access to repairing and maintaining clothes, appliances, and furniture.

Communication

Digitalize everything, creating more efficient methods of communication and better design of equipment and materials; encourage sharing of tools and machines like computers; lessen resource consumption by using smaller laptops rather than using big LCD monitors.

Healthcare

Invest in medical equipment that have longer lifespans; reduce the number of single-use plastic items in the medical field; increase virtual healthcare practices where possible.

What are some circular economy examples of brands that Ccrave supports?

There are already a few innovative, eco-friendly brands, particularly in the fashion, home, and lifestyle product categories, that are implementing circular economy principles in their manufacturing and design processes, while also making sure that they are socially responsible. HNST Jeans creates 100% natural jeans from leftover denim, which can easily be recycled at the end of life. AllSisters makes affordable, sustainable swimwear and athletic gear, with a mission to empower women. Vintage for a Cause’s goal is to create handmade, ethical, and timeless clothes using rescued dead stock fabrics. Paper on the Rocks produces high-quality, tree-free notebooks from construction and agricultural waste. Komrads’ eco-friendly sneakers are made of recycled rubber, recycled cotton, PET bottles, and apple leather. 

The circular economy is still an emerging concept, but is slowly being implemented across industries and economies. Ccrave pushes a circular lifestyle forward by creating awareness and providing alternatives to linear consumption with products from forward-thinking circular brands.

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