A report from the World Bank reveals that about 572 million tonnes of rubbish are generated by OECD households every year, accounting for 44% of global waste generation.
Moreover, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste is generated around the world annually. Waste generation as a global problem has reached critical levels, and resolving it requires a shift in the way we use and reuse resources. This is where the circular economy comes in.
What is circular economy?
The circular economy is one that incorporates the principles of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ into production processes, thereby enabling more sustainable manufacturing and consumption.
The key idea behind the circular economy is to conserve resources by using materials and products that will remain in circulation in the economy for as long as possible.
This cuts down on waste and reduces air, water, and soil pollution and the harm to biodiversity that are inevitable side-effects of current models of production and consumption.
A circular economy also enables resources to be consumed only at rates that do not exceed the Earth’s capacity to replace them.
The six phases of the circular economy include:
Advantages of circular economy
The effective use of resources, focusing on reducing waste and reusing or recycling materials wherever possible, forms the basis of sustainable and inclusive growth. Countries that shift towards the circular economy will see the following benefits:
1. Improved economic results while reducing the use of resources
Focusing on sustainable production and reduced wastage is not just good for the planet. It also means that the economy can conserve its supply of resources and spend less money on waste management and sourcing raw material.
Moreover, as the product life cycle for each item produced expands, the economy can also produce in more manageable quantities, which means further cost savings.
2. Identification and creation of new opportunities for economic growth
The circular economy offers considerable opportunity for new ideas for sustainable production, recycling options, biodegradable materials, and waste management ideas.
Businesses large and small with creative ideas for sustainable products and processes can gain immense popularity with products like fabric shopping bags, handmade paper, edible cutlery, or outfits made from factory scraps.
As consciousness about sustainability improves, people will start shopping locally to produce and support small businesses that source materials ethically.
They will move away from opting for fast fashion or supermarket goods that involve high levels of wastage and pollution.
3. Guaranteed secure supply of essential resources
When an economy puts the brakes on resource overuse, it guarantees a supply of those resources for future generations. Given that many parts of the world are already feeling the pinch from water or energy shortage, this is something that needs to be prioritised now.
4. Fight against climate change and limited environmental impact
By bringing a halt to indiscriminate production and consumption, the circular economy leads to lower pollution levels and less negative impact on the environment. Over the last few years, climate change has gone up by an alarming rate.
Many fear that the damage to the environment may soon be at the point of no return. By taking steps towards sustainability now, economies can safeguard themselves from greater consequences in the future.
Circular economy model and food waste
Food waste has long been an area of concern, both regarding the amount of waste generated by households and businesses and the significant expenditure of resources in the manufacturing and transporting process.
A big part of creating a circular economy is addressing how we produce and consume food and where we can do so more sustainably. Here is how change can happen:
1. Consuming better
Planning weekly meals and purchasing only what is needed can go a long way in cutting down household food waste. To enable this better, retailers can start selling smaller food packets and educate the consumers about the same.
2. Anaerobic digestion
This is a highly efficient and eco-friendly way for supermarkets and food businesses to effectively manage food waste. It also produces biogas on the side, a valuable eco-friendly fuel. Check out Waste2ES’ iD-R-5K CompactAD System.
3. Using an ERP system
An enterprise resource planning system allows food retailers to keep track of their inventories when deliveries are coming in, the shelf lives of each product, and so on. It helps schedule deliveries only as needed while making sure that food gets sold before it expires.
4. Using leftovers creatively
Leftovers can make sandwiches, soups, sauces, and pizza toppings, while wonky vegetables are great for adding to smoothies and soups or converting into pickles.
5. Selling upcycled food at a premium
Restaurants and food brands can use up their supplies and make some extra money by converting things like overripe bananas or fruit peels into healthy snacks and then charging a premium for them from buyers.
Taking baby steps
Bringing the circular economy into action requires the efforts of the world as a whole. The United Nations has put forth the Sustainable Development Goals, a list of 17 universal goals that aim towards sustainable consumption and production patterns.
If countries can adhere to them, it can go a long way in addressing the social, economic, and environmental challenges the planet is facing due to resource depletion and unsustainable consumption patterns.
Overall, the focus should be on bringing to life as much as possible the dictum of ‘nothing is lost, everything is transformed.