The concept of circularity
Benefits of the circular economy
- The most immediate of the benefits is that reducing consumption would reduce dependence on raw materials and energy in many economic sectors, improving security of supply (and prices).
- In a context of growing pollution, overconsumption and rising inequality, the impact of a “change of chip” on people’s well-being and health (physical and mental) would undoubtedly have a positive effect.
- The environmental impact (the first advantage for some, collateral for others) is not trivial. Most of the “pre-circular” processes involve a very high ecological cost, with repercussions (global warming aside) that are difficult to predict in many areas.
- Innovation would be boosted by the need to seek more efficient solutions, and competitiveness would also be stimulated, resulting in more efficient economic processes from a global point of view.
- The management of waste and its reintroduction into the production cycle would generate (it is already being seen) new business opportunities and new economic sectors (and labour niches).
- Both the savings of final consumers and their differential participation on a small scale in this new economy would make it possible to improve the quality of life in a generalized way.
Thus, the benefits cover fields as varied as productivity, climate change, savings or health. All of them have in common being concerns of the first order in this first half of the 21st century.
The stages of the circular economy
- Share. This is “phase 0”, and the recurrent theme would be to move “from ownership to use” of products, goods and services. Sharing practices lead to a huge optimization of resource and energy consumption.
- Repair. That is to say, fixing damaged goods, a traditional practice that programmed obsolescence has cornered and that is making a comeback (including the famous “right to repair” defended by the EU).
- Re-use. Nor should this stage be underestimated, on the contrary: in the reuse of goods (with the use for which they were conceived or for any other) lies the key to reducing the generation of waste.
- Remanufacture. It consists of returning damaged goods to the manufacturer, who can give them a second life with reused, repaired or new parts. Electronic products are the paradigmatic example, but it is quite a challenge.
- Recycle. We are familiar with the resurrection of certain materials (paper / cardboard, glass, certain plastics), but there is room for improvement, from the moment of triage to technological optimization contributions.