A circular economy is all about closing resource loops and thus creating an environment that is good for society, innovative, and restorative of our planet’s resources. At present, we live in a linear economy. This means that we are extracting resources from our planet at a rate that is ever-increasing. We then turn them into products, and in most cases we simply dispose of them after use with both valuable and also dangerous raw materials ending up in landfill. However, this is a system that is unsustainable, and this is why there is a move towards a circular economy. But just what is a circular economy? It is a system that is resilient, future-proof and waste-free by design. So let’s take a look at a number of the advantages associated with a circular economy.
- Competitiveness and productivity levels are enhanced – The circular economy is certainly a lucrative one, which will lead to increased levels of resource productivity and competitiveness, as we will be recovering value from products that would otherwise have gone to waste. Most of this value is derived from keeping things in working order. For example, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) is worth 50 per cent more if sold for re-use or sent to a WEEE recycling facility. However, we have the current issue that only two per cent of old electronics are reused out of the 23 per cent that are suitable for re-use. This is why there needs to be focus on the design of the device to ensure an easy repair.
- Advantages for existing businesses – There are a number of benefits for businesses by adapting to a circular economy. They will be able to improve their resilience to change, lower supply costs, improve asset usage, create new marketplaces and services, and generate a greater amount of income from their customers. All they need to do is put a plan in place to develop these opportunities that are available.
- The creation of new jobs – It is believed that a circular economy will reduce unemployment in areas of the country where it is most high. In fact, research indicates that 205,000 new jobs could be created in the United Kingdom alone. This is because a circular economy has the ability to address regional unemployment and labour market skill gaps. One of the most significant aspects about the creation of new jobs is the fact that it will be across all skill sets – with almost eight per cent of jobs predicted to be for those considered low skilled, 3.6 per cent for those considered skilled, and 2.2 per cent for those at a professional level. Activities will include re-manufacturing and there will be a transition to providing services instead of products.
- It is what consumers want? – Consumers are demanding electrical and electronic products that are more robust and more easily repairable rather than products that barely last a few years and are then cheaper to replace than to repair. In the UK, a qualitative study was carried out by the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which concluded that consumers believed getting devices repaired was simply too difficult and that devices did not last as long as they expected them to. So the answer is, yes, consumers do want a more circular economy, even though they may not be familiar with that term.