Moving the Circular Economy from Theory to Practice

On a fundamental level, the circular economy is a model that decouples economic growth from resource constraints by reducing reliance on virgin materials. Instead, the goal is to keep materials functioning at their highest utility at all time, preventing potential waste from reaching landfills. While the idea of maximizing value out of materials for both economic and environmental reasons is not a new concept, the circular economy is fueled by more urgent recognition of commodity risks in supply chains. They seek an increase in zero-waste regulations and a pursuit of the financial opportunities that come with more efficient reuse strategies.

Today we consume resources 50 percent faster than they can be replaced. There won’t be enough supply for certain metals, such as copper, to meet the growing global demand. By 2030, half the world could live in water-stressed areas. Over half the world lives in urban areas, and that trend will continue to grow. In the U.S., the urban population increased by over 10 percent from 2000 to 2010 and by 2025 the largest U.S. cities will generate more than 10 percent of global GDP growth. By 2030, more than half the global population will live in emerging market cities, with even more concentrated urban growth in countries such as China.

With greater access to data and social media, consumers will have more information on product impacts and greater expectations around product sustainability performance. Consumers with a consciousness and access to the right information could become powerful assets in building the demand for products that are toxic-free and easier to reuse. They can be engaged to use and dispose of goods in more sustainable ways. Companies adopting this type of “green” business model will have greater opportunity to manage the material flows of their products. In addition, they will create new business value and eradicate waste from the system.

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