Since a few decades ago, products are created, used until we get tired of them or until they stop working (something that thanks to programmed obsolescence occurs faster and faster) and then they die directly. When the products die, they disappear from our lives and we forget about them.
But, that products stop being useful and being part of our daily life, does not mean they disappear. In fact, they simply evaporate from our sight and go take up more space in the vast mountains of waste that are created (and are still being created) year after year. As consumerism settles and reaches every time more layers of the population, our consumption habits are leaving a trace, which gets bigger as the years pass by.
This consumption model and the high load it entails for the environment is unquestionable and should be changed for something better. In fact, much more efficient models of consumption and product lifecycles that are more sustainable and respectful with the environment can substitute it. This is where the circular economy emerges, an economy in which the product lifecycle is not a line finishing in any landfill, but rather becomes a circle where products always find a new existence.
Circular economy is waking up the interest of consumers, companies and public authorities. In fact, and for a more detailed example, the European Commission has a package of specific measures aimed at companies and consumers to promote this type of actions and activities. The measures, with economic aids worth billions of euros, try to promote this type of behavior in all potential products’ lifecycles. Among the European objectives are to recycle 65% of all garbage from European municipalities and 75% of packaging in 2030, or to launch economic incentives for manufacturers to fill the market with much greener products.
In addition, circular economy does not only involve the recycling of our waste and the launch of greener products, but also a change of philosophy in what it means to access products and services. The idea is for people not to own all products, but rather that everyone uses what they need when they need it without owning it and therefore, products are much more "amortized." The new car-sharing services, which are emerging in big cities and allow renting and sharing cars, go in that line. Things are used consistently and there is not a park of products waiting to be used while we continue to buy.
How to give a new life to products
In the end, one could say that circular economy is structured around a philosophy based on the so known "7Rs": redesign, reduce, reuse, renew, repair, recycle and retrieve products to give them new uses or all of their possible uses. It is, in a way, what for decades our grandparents did, when they always used the same bottles to go to the store for certain drinks or when they converted things they no longer used in others, as now do hipster bars when they turn jam pots into glasses.
Applying the larger-scale model, as some pioneering cities make, implies having all the actors in society implied and being able to go beyond the most obvious solutions. In Peterborough, a British city that already functions as an authentic circular city, people use the bags in which cafes sell coffee to convert them into bags and handbags. And everything that cannot be used for new uses is used to generate electricity in an energy facility.
Some big multinational companies also try to become circular, such as H&M. In the case of fashion companies, they focus on the collection of clothes in their establishments. Customers can leave clothes they no longer use in their stores and these will be converted again into raw materials to make new clothes.
All these measures, like repairing appliances before throwing them, are supposed to be a saving, which implies an improvement in the finances of those who are benefiting from the structures of the circular economy, but, above all, they have a direct impact on your footprint in the environment. The circular economy helps to solve the high load our modes of consumption impose on the environment.