Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, Repair, Refurbish, Regenerate! The world has gradually transitioned from a linear economy model to a recycling model and is now shifting to a circular economy model.
According to a World Economic Forum briefing, the circular economy encompasses circular design, circular finance, circular business models, systems perspective on circular change, a circular economy in cities, a regenerative food system, technologies enabling circularity and regenerative economics.
The reality is conventional ‘take-make-dispose’ economies have devastated the environment. By 2050 use of resources could double if businesses were to continue the same. According to the UN, we would need 1.5 Earths to sustain our current consumption of resources. By 2030, the circular economy model will be the only functional model across the spectrum.
The circular economy, with its pillars of reuse, recovery and regenerative economics, transforms the economy into redesigned and inclusive systems by:
Manufacturing circular products that transmute waste into assets.
Increasing affordability, accessibility and convenience by sharing industrial assets otherwise kept idle or stood expensive.
Resolving the classic problem of scarcity of resources by enhancing the resilience of product life cycle by venturing into untapped market gaps. The circular designs synergise disassembling, reusability and upgradability of products, thus extending their use.
Resource recovery is spurred by refurbishing returned items and reselling them.
Innovating Bridges to Circular Economy
1) Waste Collection
The Internet of Waste leads to optimising trash collection services. Real-time information aggregation to waste collectors enhance intelligent waste management. Sustainability and resilience of the supply chain can be tracked to ensure the circularity of the product from the raw stage to the shelf and economically empower marginalised workers by linking them to purchasers of waste materials. NutriLoop is an Estonian venture that transmutes organic waste into sustainable agrochemicals, thus facilitating regenerative agriculture.
In our previous issue, we discussed the normalisation of circular cities in the process of urbanisation. Circular construction systems are revolutionising architecture and design owing to bio-based materials that are carbon negative.
Construction and food waste go directly from landfills to building green architecture as circularity and biomimicry combine. Odakyu Electric Railway Company, for example, has refurbished old abandoned and dilapidated buildings to create a local working-age economy in Japan with residential living.
An innovation in stickers now ensures eating fresh fruits and reducing food waste. StixFresh is coated in anti-microbial plant-based substances. The fruit lasts longer than usual due to the anti-fungal properties of the sticker. Resultantly, the fruit ripens slower. This innovation plays at the consumer’s psyche as the fruit that ‘looks less degraded’ gets discarded less.
The OLIO digital platform notifies neighbours regarding extra ingredients or food, thus ensuring food safety and reducing food wastage and loss. This adds to community empowerment and targets the reduction of household waste.
Next, we turn our attention to animal diets. Deep Branch is substituting traditional protein sources like fishmeal and soy. This animal feed includes protein made from carbon dioxide itself using microbes. This results in minimised transport logistics and reduced carbon emissions.
Plastic-free textiles can counter synthetic textiles that degrade ecology. 100% plastic bio neutral materials are being used in products, as plant matter gets transformed into leathers and fabrics, Mycelium, for example, is found in fungal roots, and Dutch start-up, Mylium, has been utilising it to grow thread-like fabric.
5) Green Health
Anandipad provides fully biodegradable and compostable sanitary pads that can be used as fertiliser or for manuring in the post-disposal phase. The venture provides employment opportunities to rural women. The multiplier benefits secure sustainable agriculture, economic empowerment of women and protection of their menstrual hygiene in a climate-friendly manner. It is currently focused on urban slums and rural markets.
15-25% of the waste per hospital bed is hazardous, with each bed producing 13 kg of waste. The priority of reducing care costs, decreasing cumbersome processes for patients and staff and ensuring sustainable designs within the hospitals has circularised diagnosing machines and minimised wastage per hospital bed.
Remarkable solutions from the circular economy are found in the cross-cutting themes of gender, climate, health and daily living. Circularity in our lives is being added by the multi-sectoral impact makers percolating our everyday lifecycle. Numerous Business to Business (B2B) innovations encompass the field of robotics and artificial intelligence. It has become manageable for end consumers to track sustainable procurement supply chains.
A holistic overhaul of our life cycle requires a circular economy since desertification, land degradation, and extreme climate events have become the norm. Innovations are falling short of maximum potential due to meagre funding. Early adoption of circularity by consumers and born circular businesses must be accompanied by circular production by prosumers such as farmers. It is so crucial that we act now and begin to shift to a circular economy model. We can no longer sustain our planet operating on a linear one, and there is genuinely no planet B.
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ABOUT THE WRITER - Vani Bhardwaj
Vani is an advocate for gendered environmental peace-building and conflict transformation, intersecting with multiple subaltern perspectives. She is an avid writer and researcher. She prides herself in being a lifelong learner.