Circular economy examples/Linear Economy/origin/Characteristics

What is the Circular Economy? 

Circular Economy is a model of production and consumption that involves the reduction, reuse, recovery and recycling of materials and energy. Minimizing resource extraction, maximizing reuse, increasing efficiency and developing new business models. In this article we will provide you the 6 examples of circular economy.

This reuse aims to reduce as much as possible the extraction of raw materials from the environment. Since more and more nature’s resources are being depleted, this new way of consumption takes into account environmental, economic and social aspects. 

According to the UN annually, more than 8 million tons of plastics are thrown into the ocean. If no action is taken, the forecast is that by 2050 there will be more plastic from the sea than fish. 

Therefore, waste management through solutions such as recycling and reuse are essential. In addition, new business models and forms of production that are sustainable need to be adopted.

Difference Circular and Linear Economy

The circular economy contrasts with the current production process, which has the practice of ‘extract-produce-discard’, and is what we call a linear economy.

In a linear system, economic growth depends on the consumption of finite resources, which carries the imminent risk of depletion of raw materials. With fewer resources available, there are increasingly higher extraction costs, which brings instability and uncertainty about the future.

In addition to the problems associated with the unsustainable extraction of resources, there is also contamination resulting from the production and disposal of products. The linear model generates an unprecedented volume of unused and potentially toxic waste for humans and natural systems.

The idea of ​​a circular economy comes to help us overcome these dilemmas, and create new – smarter – ways to inhabit this planet.

Where does the Circular Economy come from? 

The circular economy model is a mixture of important schools of thought. Including Walter Stahel’s performance economy; the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy of William McDonough and Michael Braungart; the idea of ​​biomimetics articulated by Janine Benyus; the industrial ecology of Reid Lifset and Thomas Graedel; the natural capitalism of Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawkens; and the blue economy approach as described by Gunter Pauli.

3 Pillars of the Circular Economy

Production – Eliminate Waste and Pollution

Production should prioritize reducing the extraction of environmental raw materials. That is, we must reuse more resources in manufacturing and use fewer new resources. 

Use – Keep Products and Materials in Use

In addition to measures being adopted by industries or companies, the circular economy aims to make changes happen individually. When buying a product, you should use it to the fullest! Never dispose of a product the wrong way.

Reuse and Recycle – Regenerate Natural Systems

Many products can be reused, if reuse is not possible, look for a way to recycle. Through continuous and sustainable actions, the actors involved in the circular economy contribute to the recovery of ecosystems, working for the balance between the production of inputs and the preservation of the environment.

Circular Economy Stages

Before reading the examples of circular economy, look at its stages first.

The circular economy is embedded in the manufacturing process of items. Therefore, it has some steps in common with the linear economy.

However, its cyclical format allows for a better use of inputs, generating a smaller impact on nature.

We can describe this dynamic in six phases:

  1. Extraction
  2. Transformation
  3. Consumption
  4. Maintenance and Repair
  5. reuse
  6. Recycling or treatment for conscious disposal.

Note that the first steps are the same as in linear economy, however, they are usually focused on reducing waste and reusing materials.

8 Characteristics of This Economy Model

Grasp the characteritics of it then you will read the examples of circular economy.

1. Create a Waste-Free Product

In the circular economy at the time of creating a product, it must be designed to remain within a cycle. This cycle is of biological techniques and materials, these materials can be composted or reused. In other words, it can be reused, without it becoming an unusable waste. 

2. Possess Resilience and Diversity

It is important that within modern society, in which aspects such as change and evolution are constant, some points must be prioritized. Among these points are versatility, modularity and adaptability. 

Within the circular economy, systems have more scales and connections, diversity, must be more resilient. Allowing the product to be more weather resistant and not to be created just for a certain time. 

3. Switch to Energy Sources That Are Renewable

We must seek means of generating energy that are renewable and that contribute to a restoration process. One of the most widely used energy sources is solar energy

The objective is to integrate sustainability into food systems, thus reducing the need to insert inputs that are based on fossil fuels. 

4. Think of the System as a Whole

In this system it is of paramount importance to understand how each part influences each other in a mutual way is essential and each element must be considered in its social and environmental context.

It is necessary to consider the serious consequences that imprecise conditions can generate, in addition to the uncontrolled results. These systems need to have greater flexibility and ease of adapting to changing circumstances.

5. Waterfall Thinking

Biological materials must be used on top of the possibility of creating an additional value in the form of a cascade, allowing other applications to be carried out.

During the decomposition process, whether naturally or in controlled fermentation, it is important to try to extract energy and nutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats from this material.

Thus, it is not always necessary to extract a new natural resource: it can result from a recyclable input, which is transformed into raw material for a new item.

Also note that consumption is followed by maintenance and repair so that the materials have a longer lifespan and can be reused.

In the last phase, recycling is the first option, and disposal only happens when the resource has been exhausted.

6. Increase and preserve natural capital

Within the circular economy, it is important to seek renewable resources that perform better, in order to reduce costs. Another point is the importance of stimulating the flow of nutrients within the system, aiming to create conditions for the soil to regenerate. 

7. New ways of using resources

It is extremely important to look for ways to breathe new life into products that are no longer suitable for their initial use. In this way, we can find ways to reform or recycle components and materials, increasing their circulation and contributing to the economy.

8. Increase the effectiveness of processes

When good results are achieved in resource management, the production and activity cycle remains continuous. Therefore, it is important to conscientiously use natural resources such as water, soil and air, avoiding noise and environmental pollution.

Examples of Circular Economy

Below are the 6 examples of circular economy.


The vision focused on the circular economy is at the root of the business of this company, which operates in the production of cups, pots and trays using cassava starch as raw material.

At the end of their useful life, the items end up serving as fertilizer. That is, they do not need to be discarded.

The company was founded in 2002 by engineer Claudio Bastos and currently produces millions of customized and biodegradable packaging.


Famous for coffee machines and other beverages, the brand created its own solution to reuse aluminum capsules, investing millions of reais in initiatives such as the Nespresso Recycling Center.

According to a report on Época’s website, in 2019 the company collected 22% of the capsules sold, through a system mobilized by electric cars in the capitals of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

While aluminum is recycled over and over again, coffee grounds are turned into compost.


The beverage giant has several local initiatives in favor of the circular economy, such as the reuse of its glass bottles.

In 2019, the Coca-Cola FEMSA Brasil bottler celebrated the recycling of 100 million PET bottles in one year, through the SustentaPET collection center .

The site works in partnership with recyclable material collectors and cooperatives, strengthening their performance and collaborating for the correct disposal of waste.


A recent announcement highlighted the Swedish furniture retailer , which will buy used furniture from customers who no longer use it.

The objective is to reduce the disposal of parts, which will be marketed as second-hand items by the company itself, with the goal of fully joining the circular economy.

The goal is that by the end of 2021, the service will be available in all its stores.


Like Coca-Cola, Unilever is a partner of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Together, they are working to develop fast-moving products, collaborating with other industry giants to create systemic change in plastic packaging cycles, and developing capabilities to apply change at all levels of the business (as Unilever offers products ranging from food to personal hygiene items).


One of the biggest tech companies in the world was already operating on the circular economy even before the term came to life. All Apple stores accept their own products for free recycling, and the Apple Renew program offers credits to customers who bring in old cell phones so they can get the new ones cheaper. They also work together with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

Circular Economy in Fashion

“The number of times a garment is used until its disposal has decreased by 36% compared to 15 years ago. “

The report prepared by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation , “ A new textiles economy: Redesigning fashion’s future ”, advocates the creation of an action plan around a new textile model. Reversing losses of up to US$500 billion in underused clothing and lack of reuse of resources.

The women of Paraisópolis-SP came together to transform their community. Sewing Dreams brings financial independence to women victims of domestic violence by offering them the chance to learn to sew. 

The C&A Foundation dedicated €250,000 to the social enterprise Circle Economy to expand its Circular Textile Program. Circle Economy is a cooperative dedicated to accelerating the practical and scalable application of the circular economy in the fashion industry.

challenges for the future

Implementing the circular model implies a major shift and breaking of paradigms. After all, it is necessary to put aside the linear concept, adopted for centuries, to embrace a new format in the relationship between humanity, the production of inputs and nature.

It is worth remembering that, despite being unsustainable, the linear model still prevails in some nations, especially in South America. It is simple to verify this fact, just by observing the priorities of the companies on the continent.

Many still do not express environmental concern to the point of modifying their structure in favor of this cause. There is also a need to organize a structure that punishes or corrects linear logic and, at the same time, rewards the circular economy.

This premise must be, for example, in the laws and regulations of the countries regarding the environment and business management, with incentives for organizations that propose to turn the key and adopt the cyclical model.

We hope that you have understood the examples of circular economy.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Back to top button