The so-called circular economy presents a viable path to tackling the impact of this profound global health and economic crisis; and what is more, it does so in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. It is more than an alternative – it is a necessity.
The circular economy is growing from strength to strength. This model mimics the life cycle of nature, where landfills do not exist, and all the elements fulfil their purpose before being reused in a continuous process.
Reducing, reusing and recycling are the distinctive characteristics of this system, which champions maximum use of resources, decreasing production to the bare minimum and mainly using biodegradable materials to manufacture consumer goods, which in turn return to the ecosystem without damaging the environment.
The circular economy proposes that non-biodegradable elements – for example, electronic components, metals and batteries – be disconnected and reused in the manufacture of new parts or, as a last resort, recycled in an environmentally friendly way.
Businesses that have implemented this system are reaping the rewards: it is more profitable to reuse resources than to start from scratch, production costs are reduced and therefore so are sales prices, which benefits the consumer.
Analysts agree that COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of sustainable supply chains in our interconnected global economy. And this cyclical model is the key to building back better and greener.
According to the International Labour Organization, the circular economy could create 5 million new jobs, including in recycling and waste management, and also launch sustainable businesses in core economic sectors.
As stated at the twenty-second meeting of the Forum of Ministers of Environment of Latin America and the Caribbean, with this model, products and materials remain in use – even those considered scrap – making it possible to eliminate pollution and regenerate natural systems.
Adopting these principles could reduce the use of raw materials by up to 99 per cent, and as a result help protect biodiversity.
Current climate discussions focus on the transition to renewable energies and energy efficiency, which will help tackle 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Against this backdrop, experts explain, the circular economy would enable the remaining 45 per cent of emissions – generated by the way we manufacture and use goods – to be eliminated.
At the Forum of Ministers, the Circular Economy Coalition was launched. This is a regional initiative to promote the transition towards a sustainable economic system as part of the COVID-19 recovery.
A report published by the World Economic Forum in January this year states that transitioning to this type of economy would extract more value from used resources, reduce environmental degradation and add around 4.5 trillion dollars to the market.
Building a circular economy, the report emphasises, involves implementing innovative solutions that transform industries through new materials and types of energy, along with diverse business models.
The report highlights the importance of linking with enablers of innovation, such as universities and research centres, who will lead the way in this much needed transition, partnering with pioneering businesses in their undertaking.
It also highlights governments’ potential to contribute by implementing favourable public and fiscal policies that facilitate the strides taken by these businesses towards the new economic model. (PL)