What’s a circular economy?
Looking beyond the current take-make-waste extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution
- Keep products and materials in use
- Regenerate natural systems
What’s the biggest difference between a linear economy and a circular economy?
A circular economy is fundamentally different from a linear economy. To put it simply, in a linear economy we mine raw materials that we process into a product that is thrown away after use. Value is created in this economic system by producing and selling as many products as possible.
A circular economy follows the 3R approach: reduce, reuse and recycle. Resource use is minimized (reduce). Reuse of products and parts is maximized (reuse). And last but not least, raw materials are reused (recycled) to a high standard. This can be done by using goods with more people, such as shared cars. Products can also be converted into services, such as Spotify sells listening licences instead of CDs. In this system, value is created by focusing on value preservation.
How does circularity relate to sustainability?
Circularity contributes to a more sustainable world, but not all sustainability initiatives contribute to circularity. Circularity focuses on resource cycles, while sustainability is more broadly related to people, the planet and the economy. Circularity and sustainability stand in a long tradition of related visions, models and theories. Here are some examples.
The idea behind restorative design, developed by American professor John T. Lyle in the 1970s, is that processes within all systems can reuse their own energy and materials. Demand from society is also met within the limits of nature.
Walter Stahel developed the vision of a closed-circle economy, including the principles of life extension, product repair and waste prevention. Selling services instead of products is an important part of his thinking: everyone pays for the performance of a product. This leads to the concept of the performance economy.
In the cradle-to-cradle model, developed by Michael Braungart, materials in industrial and commercial processes are considered as raw materials for technological and biological reuse. Design is literally from cradle to cradle – in the design process the entire life cycle of the product and the raw materials used are considered. Technical raw materials do not contain any components that are harmful to the environment; biological raw materials are completely biodegradable.
The donut economy
The donut economy, developed by Oxford economist Kate Raworth, is a model for measuring the earth’s prosperity, based on the Sustainable Development Goals and the planetary boundaries. Many of the planetary boundaries relate directly to ‘unlocked’ cycles, such as those of greenhouse gases, toxic substances, eutrophication, fresh water, aerosols and oxygen radicals.
How Homey’s would like to contribute to a more circular economy
For us as knife and tool designers, it’s extremely important to add our bit to a more circular way of trading. We’re trying to make a shift in our focus, for instance from selling knives to providing services to extend their lifespan. We also want to invest in doing research in the use of environmentally friendly materials and are taking a close look at our way of packaging. Last but not least, we’d love to initiate a large-scale rycycling program. You should always keep something to dream about!