What is the circular economy?

In our current economy, we extract materials from the Earth, make products, and then throw them away as waste. This is linear. By being designed differently, circular economies avoid waste being produced in the first place. This is based on the following three principles.

First, eliminate waste through design. Thus, products are designed to re-enter the economy at the end of their use. For instance, they can be repaired or refurbished for continued use or they can remanufactured for other uses, or recycled. Products made from biological materials can be returned to nature and used to regenerate natural systems.

The second principle is to circulate products and materials at their highest value. This means designing products to be easy to repair and maintain. It includes modular, integrated designs which can be readily taken apart and parts replaced easily. It also means products that last and can withstand wear and tear.

The third principle is to regenerate nature. This means designing systems to work with, and enhance, natural systems. It includes designing products which promote biodiversity and sustainable farming. Instead of focusing on finite mined resources, circular systems are based on renewable resources created through regenerative design.

The CBD01 Circular Business and Development Workshop will go into the principles of the circular economy and how these can be applied to different sectors including construction, food and textiles. For more information on the course, see here.