Circular Economy explained: definition & examples - Lake Harding Association

Circular Economy explained: definition & examples

Circular Economy explained: definition & examples

By Micah Moen 2 Comments February 26, 2020

Hi Alex here. Today’s video is about
circular economy. It is a term that we hear a lot these days.
I was asked many times to make a video about it so here it is. I will explain
what we mean by circular economy. I will go through all the things we can do to
go from our current economy to a circular one and I will use many
examples. If you stay untill the end, I will share a book with you that you can
read to learn more about it. You will see there is way more to it than just
recycling. Okay let’s get drawing! When my son was three years old and asking his mummy what was this circular economy thing she was working on, here is what
she told him: it is when everything is healthy food for something else. So
simple and sweet. I loved it! In other words, it means running the economy like
nature runs its own business: plants use carbon dioxide and
nutrients to grow and produce oxygen. Animals use oxygen and create carbon
dioxide and nutrients. Nothing is wasted. It is a closed-loop system. Circular
economy is generally opposed to the linear economy take-make-waste we have been running for many years. Some people also use the term “cradle to cradle” as
opposed to cradle to grave. As explained in my triple bottom-line
video, the economy is part of society which is part of the environment. You can click here if you want to watch this video. Now let’s look at the economy: we
can split into two categories the things that we need to run into closed loops: technical materials, biological materials. Technical materials have this typical
life cycle: raw materials are mined, the product is manufactured then it is
transported to be used until the end of its life. We often tend to think about
the end of life and the importance of recycling and this is true but for our
economy to be circular there are many things we can do before the end of life.
It starts with using resources that are already extracted. Say my product needs
copper. It is best to “mine” copper and that is not used anymore
(that we also called post-consumer) as opposed to mining some new one from the ground. Especially when you know that: 1) copper is predicted to be mined out
worldwide by 2040 and 2) processing recycled copper uses only 10 to 20% of
the energy it takes to process new copper from virgin ore. When manufacturing my product I can design it so it can easily be dismantled and the copper can
easily be recycled next time. I can also manufacture my product so it lasts a
long time, so it can be maintained and repaired. I can design it so it uses as
little energy as possible. This TED video uses a great example of a tea kettle and
the fact that during commercial break of a popular TV show, England has to buy
nuclear power from France because millions of people go to the kitchen at
the same time to boil an entire two-liter kettle to make one cup of tea. Once
a product cannot be used anymore then it needs to be collected and recycled. Here
comes an important question: does the recycled material maintained its quality
to be used for similar applications? Or is it “down-cycled” into a material that
has a poorer quality? Down-cycled was a term from the book “cradle-to-cradle”. You can find a link in the description below. Remember in a circular economy
everything is healthy food for something else. Nothing goes to landfill. Biological
materials are farmed or collected and then possibly processed and transported
before reaching the consumer. Once consumed that can be used to create
biogas, biochemicals or be composted. Finally they can go back to nature to
restore it. But again in a circular economy, nothing goes to landfill. Two transition strategies can be very helpful as we are
trying to create a circular economy: substitution and dematerialization.
Substitution is about using different resources to achieve the same goal. For
example the world is running out of lithium so unless we can recycle lithium
batteries more efficiently, sodium-ion batteries might
be a better option for car manufacturers in the future. Dematerialization refers
to using less of a resource to serve the same economic function in society. As an example, interface is the world’s largest designer and maker of commercial modular carpet. But they don’t sell the carpet anymore. Their customers buy the service of having carpet on their floor. Interface is in charge of maintaining
and repairing the carpet and they do that very efficiently because it is
their specialty and they control the entire process. Using tiles they can
replace only the ones that need replacing. The old tiles go back to the
factory to be recycled where new tiles are made with 98% recycled or bio-based
content. How is that for almost circular? Of course creating a circular economy is
only one piece of the sustainability puzzle and many other aspects have to be taken into account to get 100% sustainable: climate change,
sustainable energy, sustainable agriculture, social sustainability, etc. As
promised in the beginning, here is a great book I recommend if you want to
learn more. It is very well put together and it talks about circular economy in
the modern age. I will put a link in the description below. If you found this
video useful please like it, subscribe and click the bell to be notified when
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us a tip on our website you to all our patrons and I will see you in the next video.

2 Comments found


Clément Bourdens


Super vidéo merci ! Est-ce que vous avez prévu de faire une vidéo spécifique sur l’économie de la fonctionnalité, composante importante de l’économie circulaire ?

Merci et bonne journée 🙂


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0:33 — Definition of circular economy
1:40 — Technical materials
3:44 — Biological materials
4:14 — Substitution (example)
4:31 — Dematerialization (example)
5:34 — Book recommendation


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