Circular economy is a concept that associates economic development with better use of natural resources, through new business models and optimization of manufacturing processes with less dependence on virgin raw materials, prioritizing more durable, recyclable and renewable inputs.
The circular economy is based on rethinking the way of designing, producing and marketing products to ensure the intelligent use and recovery of natural resources. It is an improvement of the current economic system, which aims at a new relationship with natural resources and their use by society.
It is a proposal for adding and retaining the value of resources, and regenerating the environment, which seeks to produce without depleting natural resources and without polluting the environment , consequently preserving our planet.
A more current definition for the circular economy is being developed within the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). According to the entity, “it is an economic system that uses a systemic approach to maintain the circular flow of resources, through the addition, retention and regeneration of their value, contributing to sustainable development.”
Purpose of the circular economy?
The objective of the circular economy is to create more efficient processes, in which better management of natural resources is maintained and it is intended to maintain products and materials at their highest level of utility and value, within the scope of sustainable development.
The circular economy is designed to maintain a long cycle, using raw materials and endlessly transforming them, either through recycling or reuse. The generation of waste in this economic model is minimal. The circuit is closed and minimizes the consumption of raw materials and energy. Design is important to enable circularity, as the product will be dismantled and transformed.
Key features of the circular economy
Just as in the environment, food waste returns to the earth as fertilizer, in the circular economy there is no waste, all materials can return to the production cycle following the concept of “from cradle to cradle”. For experts, if some material cannot be reused, it shouldn’t even exist.
The circular economy goes beyond the scope and focus of waste management and recycling actions, aiming at a broader scope that ranges from the redesign of processes, products and business models, to the optimization of the use of resources. Therefore, the main characteristics of the circular model are:
- Minimization of resource extraction
- Increased reuse and recycling
- Increased efficiency of products and processes
What are the benefits?
As in the circular economy, materials are used in a cyclical chain and natural resources are valued at all stages of production, as the objective is to reduce their extraction and increase their availability, the circular economy has the potential to reverse environmental damage such as global warming . global climate and pollution, for example.
The measures adopted by the circular system for the reduction of waste and the efficient use of natural resources can mean savings for companies, allowing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, since everyday materials are responsible for 45% of emissions .
Other benefits of the circular economy are:
- Ecological footprint reduction
- Greater security regarding the use of natural resources and their availability
- Increased competitiveness of companies with sustainable development
- Stimulus to economic growth
- Greater space for innovation and technology
- Creation of new jobs
The circular economy can also provide consumers with more durable and innovative products, with a view to improving their quality of life and allowing them to save money in the long run.
Circular economy in the world
Unlike Brazil, there are countries and regions that are already more advanced in discussions on the circular economy model. In Europe, for example, the European Parliament approved a classification based on six objectives, which aims to guide public investments in the bloc’s countries that need to achieve goals already established in climate agreements, in guidelines against the pollution of rivers, seas and in international commitments. regarding waste.
- The mitigation of climate change;
- Adaptation to climate change;
- The sustainable use and protection of water resources;
- The transition to a circular economy;
- Pollution prevention and control;
- The protection and restoration of biodiversity and ecosystems.
With these six objectives, it will be possible to identify companies that are really sustainable, avoiding the famous greenwashing, which refers to the act of companies and brands using sustainable discourses in advertisements, packaging and other things, without, however, acting in accordance with these principles. .
For this new regulation, an economic activity is only considered as transitioning to a circular economy that:
- Use natural resources more efficiently in production, including sustainably sourced, bio-based and other raw materials;
- Increase the durability, repairability, upgradeability or reuse of products;
- Increase the recyclability of products, including the recyclability of their different components, namely by replacing or reducing the use of non-recyclable products and materials;
- Substantially reduce the content of hazardous substances and replace substances of very high concern in materials and products throughout their entire life cycle, in accordance with the objectives set out in Union law, in particular by replacing those substances with safer alternatives and ensuring traceability;
- Prolong the use of products, through their reuse;
- Intensify the use of secondary raw materials and improve their quality, through high-quality recycling of waste;
- Prevent or reduce the production of waste, within the scope of extracting minerals and waste from the construction and demolition of buildings;
- Improve preparedness for reuse and recycling of waste;
- Increase the development of waste management infrastructure necessary for prevention, preparation for re-use and recycling, while ensuring that the resulting reclaimed materials are recycled as high quality secondary raw materials for production, thus avoiding conversion in inferior quality products (downcycling);
- Minimize waste incineration and avoid waste disposal, including landfilling, in accordance with waste hierarchy principles.