Our actions have consequences. Since the first Industrial Revolution, the pressure on natural resources has been increasing. It’s undeniable that the development experienced since the last century has generated prosperity in the world, but is also causing considerable damage to the planet.
To try to stop this negative impact on the environment, circular economy seeks to reduce or, if possible, eliminate waste. The idea is to redesign the entire system to make it more sustainable at every point in the process.
The circular economy is the definitive answer to solve the problem of depletion and economic scarcity of resources.
Research conducted in 2015 by Gerben Hieminga, senior economist at ING, shows that the circular economy will help develop new technologies and emerge markets in which we can all participate with a much clearer conscience.
What is the circular economy
The circular economy has a seemingly simple approach: small gestures will help save planet Earth.
In this sense, it is presented as the best option to stop the mistakes that humans make. And, incidentally, to achieve a society that is more aware of its actions, more responsible with the environment that surrounds it, and more active in protecting the environment.
Those little gestures, curiously, all begin with R:
- Re-use: extend the life of the products we consume, to give them a second chance, reducing their environmental impact. This makes it possible to dream of a collaborative economy based on the sale of second-hand and the exchange of goods and services.
- Repair: instead of throwing away and buying again, fixing so that it works for longer, which also means taking care of what we have and fighting against programmed obsolescence. It is not to use and to throw away, but to use, to repair and to use again.
- Recycle: It is the best known process and the one that best exemplifies what the circular economy is, since it converts waste into a resource, reducing pollution.
- To refuse: say no to objects or services that go against the environment.
- Redesign: is he ecodesign, that in all phases of production of a product, from the choice of materials to the final presentation, the protection of the environment is considered.
- Reduce: is to consume in a conscious way, to buy only what is really needed and what is going to be used, not to accumulate, to think about being more than having.
- Get it backBefore buying something new, think about whether we can recover what we already have to give it a new use.
The implementation of a circular economy proposes an environmental sustainability system based fundamentally on reducing the use of resources, the reduction in waste production and the limitation of energy consumption.
This video from the Cotec Foundation explains it very well.
What is the circular economy for
Those little gestures translate into big numbers. According to a United Nations report, with the circular economy model Waste from some industrial sectors and a similar percentage of their greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by up to 99%. The UN suggests evolving from the development model based on “grow now, clean later”, to that of the circular economy, which dreams of “Zero waste” in the year 2050.
The report makes it very clear that the world has technology, science and financial resources at its disposal to move towards sustainable development.
The impact of the circular economy on the environment
The average temperature of the planet’s surface has risen about 1 degree Celsius since the late 1800s, as a consequence of the increase in carbon dioxide and other emissions into the atmosphere.
The world will generate 53.9 million tons of electronic waste in 2025 if it follows the current progression, which causes this type of materials to grow by 3% each year, according to a report by the Bureau of International Recycling.
In 1950, with a population of 2.5 billion, the world produced 1.5 million tons of plastic. In 2016, with a population of more than 7 billion people, 300 million tons were produced. To continue like this, by 2050 there will be more plastics than fish in the planet’s oceans Land.
But there is still data that gives us hope. A stainless steel object is 60% recyclable in its composition. Used tires generate the same energy as oil (with considerably less impact on the environment) and 25% more than coal. CO2 emissions would be reduced by 58% with iron scrap. 40% of the world demand for copper is satisfied with recycling.
Recycling paper saves 65% of the energy needed to create a new one. Half of the textile that is collected is reused, and the other half is recycled. Recycling a plastic bottle achieves energy capable of keeping a 60-watt light bulb on for 6 hours.
Closing the loop: what are the most important future initiatives
The European Commission designed in December 2015 its Action Plan for the Circular Economy under the slogan “Close the Circle”. The objective is to give new impetus to employment, growth and investment, and to develop an economy low in carbon and waste, efficient in the use of resources and more competitive.
This is achieved through intervention in all parts of the value chain and the integration of the principles of the circular economy in the production and consumption of plastic, water management, food systems and the management of specific waste streams. .
In March 2019, the European Commission published a progress report on the implementation of the Action Plan for the Circular Economy, detailing the main developments.
Highlights the EU Strategy for plastics in a circular economy that proposes that by 2030 all plastic packaging placed on the EU market is reusable or recyclable. With the aim of boosting the recycled plastics market, the European Commission has launched a voluntary commitment campaign, and has launched the Circular Alliance on Plastics.
And in April 2019, the Plenary of the European Parliament approved the legislative package on Circular Economy (Waste Package) that modifies the Directives on landfills, waste, packaging and electrical and electronic equipment, with which it is intended to achieve 65% recycling by 2035.
In Spain, the Forética Circular Economy Action Group is made up of ten companies (ING we are one of them) from different sectors of activity that have the commitment to lead business action in the area of circular economy in Spain.
The circular economy, profitable for the economy
There are already some impact data that show that the transition to a circular economy model is profitable for the economy, for the planet and for people. In 2016, the sectors most involved with the circular economy employed more than four million workers in Europe, more than 6% above 2012.
The emergence of new business models linked to the circular economy, such as repair, reuse or recycling, have generated an added value of 147,000 million euros, with an investment of 17,500 million euros. In addition, the demand for recycled materials already accounts for 12% of the total in the European Union, when in the world it is barely 9%.
Because, as the European Union report “Towards a sustainable Europe by 2030” insists the circular economy is a key axis to ensure a continent, and by extension, a more competitive, more inclusive and, of course, more sustainable world.