One of the best things about the Circular Economy is that it is not entirely dependent on the selfless goodness of the people involved in it. Because only a system that works with and for all of us flawed beautiful humans (not only on our very best days but emphatically also on our most selfish worst) can actually be feasible, put-into-practice-able, scaleable, and ultimately—ahem—sustainable.
What do I mean? Circular economy is a retooled and rethought approach to production that eliminates the idea and the reality of “trash” by taking responsibility for products beyond their first lifecycle and designing them in a way that designates a clear path toward the second use and beyond for their parts and materials. That way, resources are kept in play as long as possible and every ounce of value is extracted from them. The end of one use marks the seamless beginning of another.
It makes sense from a multitude of perspectives and works with a multitude of mindsets.
For those with an eco-friendly mindset: Done at scale, the circular economy will radically reduce trash, reduce the need for the extraction of resources and raw materials, and reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint related to waste management.
For those with a business mindset: You can use the materials from products you already sold once in another product that you can sell again. Being able to measure and maximize the value that’s extracted from resources used in production has the potential to become a new key business driver. I mean, can I hear a ka-ching, ka-ching?
For those with a design & engineering mindset: If the prospect of designing and engineering products in a way that anticipates and enables their next lives doesn’t excite you, do you even care about anything? Seriously, waste and its implications is one of today’s key challenges.
For those who want a revolution for the people: Waste and all its harmful byproducts have always disproportionately affected communities of poverty, minorities, migrants. There are no incinerators or landfills on the Upper East Side, you know. Driving forward circular economies means driving toward social justice.
I’m sure we can think of more mindsets and agendas that can be down with circular economy concepts. In that way everyone can be somewhat self-serving while benefitting the planet and its people.
Who wouldn’t want that?