Topic 1: Principles of Circular Economy

What is circular economy for you? Take some time and write your thoughts before you continue reading.

The circular economy is a model of production and consumption that involves sharing, reusing, educating and recycling existing materials and products, extending their life cycle. In practice, the circular economy implies reducing waste to a minimum. When a product reaches the end of its life cycle, its materials are updated within the economy whenever possible, and can be used over and over again, thus creating more value.

The circular economy contrasts with the linear economic model based on the “produce-use-throw-away” principle. This model requires vast amounts of materials at a low price, easy to access and a lot of energy.

The economic model “extract, produce, waste” today is reaching its physical limits. The circular economy is an attractive alternative that seeks to redefine the notion of growth, with a focus on benefits for the entire society. This involves decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources and eliminating waste from the system on principle.

A short video explaining the idea of circular economy:

Now, let’s have a look on the seven pillars of circular economy. Each pillar is basically an important element/characteristic which describe the end state of the circular economy once it has been genuinely achieved. These are idealized features that may never be possible to fully achieve, but they provide a specific set of targets we aim for in a circular society in many different contexts (business, houses, etc.). 

1.Materials are cycled at continuous high value

In this pillar, the main priority is given to preserving the complexity of the material, through cascading materials in their most complete form for as long as possible. The materials in this pillar are used only when necessary, and there is a preference for dematerialization of products and services.

2.All energy is based on renewable sources

In the circular economy, the system is designed for energy efficiency without compromising performance and efficiency. Energy is conserved intelligently and cascading when lower energy values are available for use. The amount of energy consumption is adapted to the amount of local energy available.

 3.Biodiversity is supported and enhanced through human activity

One of the great principles of circular economy activity is to preserve the complexity of the product: the preservation of ecological diversity is an essential source of resilience for the planet.

4.Human society and culture are preserved

The other form of complexity and diversity, human cultures and social cohesion are important to maintain.

5.The health and wellbeing of humans and other species are structurally supported

This pillar outlines the importance of eliminating toxic and dangerous substances. In the transition phases to this circular economy it is valuable to minimize and maintain highly controlled cycles. Economic activities do not threaten human health and well-being.

6.Human activities maximise the generation of societal value

It is important to know that materials and energy are not available in infinite measure, so their use must be well thought out, intentional and make a significant contribution to their use. The choice to use resources maximises the generation of value through as many categories as possible.

7.Water resources are extracted and cycled sustainably

The world’s economic system has government command systems, with incentives and mechanisms that allow it to respond to crises. This means that there is a distribution in power, the structure of information networks and the guarantee of the existence of backup copies in case parts of the system fail.

After reading about the 7 pillars, you are more aware about the fact that circular economy has its advantages. Take some time to think on some existing advantages for Europe (environment, economy, or others).

The seven pillars of circular economy