Circular Economy – more than zero waste
Classical economists such as Adam Smith described consumption as the end of economic activity, thereby defining our throwaway society. One of the main theses of the physiocrats was that it must be possible to master nature in order to create the foundation for economic activity. The basic concept of the Circular Economy does not share these theses. It is only by understanding nature that we will be able to carry out economic activity in the long term in such a way that we are even able to survive on this planet. The Circular Economy is the counter-model to the throwaway society. In this blog, we wish to delve into a range of schools of thought and theoretical foundations for understanding and defining the Circular Economy. In doing so, we will present our ‘Thinking Circular’ approach, which is based on a comprehensive, integrated understanding. Thinking Circular is global in nature.
The multiverse for green progress in the Circular Economy develops green innovation, which benefits people and the environment. The impact generated by our work is gradually leading to an economy for a good life.
The classical economic understanding of a Circular Economy is based exclusively on the targets of profitability and resource efficiency in the use of goods, products and materials. The unwritten laws are:
- Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
- No reprocessing of things that can’t be repaired.
- No recycling of things that can still be reprocessed.
Still, a central European cultural understanding of society developed on the basis of this, with the Circular Economy understood in the sense of today’s waste management industry. There is a historical background to this; poor people, in particular, often gathered waste from rich communities, recreating value from it for themselves. Even today, 70% of the waste management industry in Asia is organised informally.
Nature does not recognise waste in this economic sense. Waste is a relatively recent invention. Historically, when people lived closer to and with nature, it was the case that there were more raw materials but no waste. Waste as a product of surplus and unfair distribution is a creation of the dysfunction of our economic systems. As long as we fail to produce and consume in such a way that our goods are friendly to people and the environment and don’t endanger us, we will need to balance out the deficiencies in our system with green environmental technologies. Air, water and soil cleaning or decontamination will be necessary until the transformation has been achieved.
We will then only be really producing in a “green” way when “nature repair workshops” are no longer needed. For so long, “close the loop” has been considered an idea for putting material and products into circulation in a manner that makes eternal re-use possible. The Circular Economy Gap Report by the United Nations states that the current success rate of this idea is 9%. So, there is a great deal to be done on this journey and we continue to learn with every step.
What standards can guide us on this path?
Below is an overview of current schools of thought and goals that, among other things, have already been discussed and presented by the international community in order to give us a code of conduct and the creation of norms and rules.
As a benchmark for the development of applications in the Circular Economy, we follow the RESOLVE approach:
- Regenerate (Using regenerative and restorative natural capital)
- Share (Maximising product usage)
- Optimise (Optimising system performance through effectiveness)
- Loop (Close the Loop – closing the material cycle)
- Virtualise (Making use of virtual opportunities in the sense of Industry 4.0)
- Exchange (prudent selection of input material – Cradle-to-Cradle)
RESOLVE is based on the following schools of thought:
Circular Economy – „Circularity Gap Report UN – Our world in only 9 % circular”
Global Sustainability Goals – 17 Goals to transform our world:
“Stuff – the Story of Solutions” Video, how to change the metric; substitute GDP by GAOL:
“Übergang in eine Green Economy”, Publikation des Bundesumweltamtes
Schools of Thought:
- Cradle to Cradle, Von der Wiege zur Wiege, Designkonzept: Wie Schönheit und Qualität dazu führen, dass wir eine Welt ohne Abfall erreichen http://www.epea.com/de/startseite-de/
- Performance Economy, Effizienz und Effektivität durch Performance, Walter Stahel http://www.globe-eu.org/wp-content/uploads/THE_PERFORMANCE_ECONOMY1.pdf, Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhJ-YZwDAVo
- Biomimicry, Nature as model, measure and mentor: https://biomimicry.net/what-is-biomimicry/
- Industrial Ecology, Study of industrial ecosystems and sustainability: http://www.andrereichel.de
- Natural Capitalism, theory of increasing the world stock of natural resources: http://www.natcap.org/sitepages/pid5.php
- Regenerative Design – Center for Regenerative Studies: http://env.cpp.edu/rs/rs