Circular Economy Not Enough

The world is deteriorating in all its aspects. Biodiversity is extremely declining, resources are becoming more scarce, the amounts of plastic in the sea is growing and the climate is changing as never before.

The core of the problem consists of multiple aspects. To begin with there is a lack of knowledge about the cohesion between the ecosystems, air flows and sea streams. The importance of nature and biodiversity is highly underestimated as a result of this absence of knowledge. Second, we are stuck in our own locked in systems in which changing is very difficult. We are stuck in our economy and the power money has over the market. In our society everything turns around money, which results in the majority of the people striving for it as a priority number one. The problem is that nature is not included in the price, which causes many of the several environmental issues of today.  Fortunately, more and more people are realizing this and aiming for a chance. The big question is where to change to? No one really has an answer to this fundamental question. In this short blog I will try to give a small part of the total answer talking about circular economy. I will apply this to an industry area in The Hague where more than 400 business are located.

The idea of a circular economy finds its origin in nature. In nature waste does not exist, everything has a purpose. There is a natural life cycle for everything. With the circular economy, we try to mimic this system by reusing the materials we use for our products. The idea is that we no longer extract new resources but create a material flow instead. In this way we can try to close the circle. The YouTube video below gives a visual representation of this system.

In this model all the resources will be reused and recycled over and over again. However, I see two problems with that.

First does it still not solve the current waste problem that we have. The materials will be reused, but not in such a way that it is part of a natural continues cycle. The products will still not be biodegradable, what means that it is not possible for nature to digest the waste. I believe that if we want to be fully circular, we need to create products that can be absorbed by the earth at the end of its lifecycle. Therefore, we need to change the very composition of our products. An example is the composition of plastic. It is already possible to create plastic where it can consist of plant-based cellulose fibers, which is more environmentally friendly. I suggest the industries at the ZKD in Den Haag to change their current plastic use into a biodegradable form of plastic, to make the circular economy fully circular.

Secondly, the circular economy suggests that we limit our resource extraction by using waste as a resource. However, the population is growing, which means we would still need to keep extracting new resources to comply with the growing demand. This does not even include yet the globally growing wealth and the increased demand for products in the world.

All in all switching to a circular economy is by far not enough to meet the current demands. We need to produce products that can easily absorbed by the earth itself and drastically decrease our current consumption.

 

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6 thoughts on “Circular Economy Not Enough”

  1. Interesting proposition. Reading this I have to agree with that the circular economy is not an all mending solution. However I missed the link to the externalized costs you mentioned in the beginning of the blog.

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  2. Great piece, I fully agree that circular economy is not the full answer, biodegradable resources are also important! But I was wondering, in your opinion, what needs to the focus more, biodegradable resources or a full circular economy? Or should you say the focus needs to be 50/50?

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  3. Yes, the circular economy may not be the full answer, but for me, it seems more realistic than biodegradable plastic. How are we going to preserve food? What is the lifespan of biodegradable plastic? Is the food eventually going to contain biodegradable plastic? That would be scary, for example: I read that artificial vitamins are different then natural vitamins. Maybe, we have to package and use less to become a circular economy.

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  4. I agree with you that the current vision of a circular economy may not be enough. But I do agree that a critical decrease in use of materials has to come. This means that people will have to change their behavior voluntary and if they don’t laws and regulations will have to be implemented. If we were to stop consuming at the rate this would result in a big step towards a healthier planet. We, people, must understand having more is not equal to wealth in terms of well-being and happiness.

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  5. Hi Louise,

    Nice use of media with the video elaborating on circulair economy. Illustrations and texts combined makes it easier to remember the information. I do however, struggle to follow the structure of your blog. In your heading you state that circulair economy is not enough. Then, in the second paragraph you state that you will give an answer to the deterioration of the earth(?) by talking about circulair economy. I interpret this as circulair economy being the answer to the deterioration but the heading says this is not the case. That confused me. In the end it turned out that circulair economy is not the answer, instead you have another answer. So after reading the heading, I expected it to tell the reasons why circulair economy is not enough for solving the deterioration of the earth but instead it is proposes that circulair economy is the answer. I do like how you can express your opinion clearly.

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