Circular Economy: The Six Rs

October 20, 2021

According to research from the World Bank, global waste generation is slightly more than 2 billion tons per year and is expected to grow to 3.4 billion tons by 2050. Daily waste generated per person is close to 0.75 kg on average but ranges from 0.11 to 4.54 kg.

We live in a consumerist society. We want, we buy, we use for a short time, we leave aside and eventually throw away. Nowadays, there are more phones than people in the world and roughly a third of the food is wasted.

It is the Industrial Revolution that initiated the prosperity that we enjoy today. However, humankind’s greediness came into play and led us to what we call a linear economy. This is what many businesses around the world promote through their strategic models. Planned obsolescence is what drives the technology industry, for instance. New trends are born every day and old ones — left at the landfills. But our existence, as we know it, is in danger if we do not switch from a linear to a circular economy.

Linear vs Circular Economy

linear economy operates on a ‘produce-use-dispose’ model. This means that it takes huge amounts of resources to manufacture products that will be discarded after a short period of use. A circular economy, on the other hand, concentrates on the reuse of raw materials and products. Its priority is, whenever possible, to prevent waste and pollution. In short, it strives to close the loops of resource flows:

circular economy vs linear economy

How can we achieve circularity through the six Rs:

  1. Rethink and reduce: We need to, first and foremost, change the way we think about products and production. Resources can be used more efficiently and production should conform with demand. Ask yourselves whether do you need a new phone every time a new model is out. Probably not!
  2. Redesign: Be creative and consider reuse, repair, and recycling options even before starting production. There are lots of ways to make something new from something old.
  3. Reuse: Get more of the products’ value instead of throwing them away. Fash fashion, for example, is the opposite of this principle.
  4. Repair and remanufacturing: Whenever you want to throw something away, think of whether it can be repaired because usually, it does. Nowadays, products are made in such a way to break after some period of use. Don’t discard them immediately, because often it is something small that won’t cost you a fortune.
  5. Recycle: When you think that the life of your things is over, convert them into reusable materials. Nowadays, almost anything can be recycled: paper, clothes, plastic, steel, food waste, etc.
  6. Recover: Electricity can be generated by burning discarded materials, for instance. In the UK, out of the 26 million tons of waste collected in a year, 11 million tons go to energy from waste (EfW). Eventually, only 3 million tonnes end up in landfills. This can be easily achieved in every country around the world.
  7. Disposal and incineration: This is the last possibility for the products that we want to get rid of. However, try to avoid it and use it only when the rest of the options don’t work.

A circular economy gives us the chance through conscious choices to deliver sustainability for the next generations. Let’s not throw it away.

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