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What is a circular economy?

The phrase ‘circular economy’ is one that ought to be in the news more often, and probably will be in the near future. The fact is that if the idea behind the phrase becomes a guiding force, the ‘future’ will probably last a lot longer.

Today’s lifestyle in the UK and in most parts of the world is geared to the philosophy of ‘make it, use it, throw it away and get a new one’. We squander our natural resources to make products that are used for a few years at most, often only a few minutes, and then chuck them into landfills where they do no good to anyone and often pollute the environment to boot.

This cycle can and must be changed if we are not to end up in the foreseeable future with no more resources and a stripped planet suffering from terminal misuse. A report called Going for Growth, released 10 June by the Environmental Services Association, states that promoting a circular economy will lead to billions of pounds in increased GNP for the UK, as well as providing thousands of new jobs in the recycling sector.

The government’s Waste and Resource Action Programme (WRAP) is a crucial factor in making the changes needed to drastically reduce waste and increase reuse of resources. This is where research can be funded on technologies to make the most of raw materials, by designing products for re-use and improving the efficiency of recycling methods to reduce both cost and carbon emissions.

ESA estimates that informed pursuit of this circular approach to business and industry could save businesses around £50 billion per year on raw materials and energy, provide £20 in UK exports and create more than half a million jobs in and surrounding the field of resource management. Reuse and recycling of our limited raw materials is the most practical and ‘resourceful’ way to boost the economy as well as protect the environment to the best possible extent.

 

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