The circular economy is here to stay. We need to become more efficient with recycling, reuse and reduced consumption. Here is how the circular economy plays into sustainability and our goals for the future.
How the Circular Economy Will Contribute to a Sustainable Future
The practices of the current generation will determine whether future generations will have a chance to a sustainable world.
This is why individuals, organizations, and governments must engage in activities that promote sustainability rather than their personal interests.
There are many ways through which stakeholders can work towards creating a sustainable tomorrow. One of the most effective strategies is by adopting a circular economy.
What is a Circular Economy?
If you are not familiar with the circular economy, then it is essential that you first comprehend how it works. This will make it easy to understand how it will contribute to sustainability.
So, what is a circular economy?
It is a system that seeks to obtain the maximum value from already extracted resources. This involves keeping materials and products in use for as long as possible instead of replacing them using new resources.
After they have been utilized, the same materials and products are recovered and regenerated as vital resources. They are then re-introduced into the supply chain, where they are put into various uses.
A circular economy is, therefore, a practice that deviates from the traditional and inefficient system of take, make, use, and dispose of resources.
The circular economy can be linked to many of the sustainable development goals (SDGs), which seek to ensure the wellbeing of the people and the planet.
See Related: Energy Conservation Overview
Why Circular Economy is Key to a Sustainable Future
A circular economy has many benefits, all of which play a role in securing a sustainable future. The rewards are realized at different stages of a material or a product’s life cycle.
Here is how the concept contributes to sustainability.
1. It Reduces and Even Eliminates Waste
One of the main threats to a sustainable world is the millions of tons of waste produced every year. These unwanted materials are generated by various entities that include commercial and industrial firms.
The waste ends up finding their ways into landfills, water bodies, and into the atmosphere. Such issues pose a threat to communities, animals, and the environment.
That is why it is crucial to reduce and, if possible, eliminate such waste. This can be achieved by adopting a circular economy, which plays a significant role in enhancing the value of a product or material. This, in turn, prevents or minimizes the production of wastes.
Furthermore, the small amount of waste that might still be produced is not considered useless. Industries find ways to turn it into a valuable resource that can be used to run processes.
All these play a significant in securing a sustainable planet for current and future generations. How?
First, reducing or eliminating waste at each stage prevents the disposing of unwanted materials into the surrounding. This means that no harmful materials or products can find their ways into water catchment areas, landfills, or into the atmosphere.
Thus, a circular economy helps reduce and even prevent pollution, which is known for destroying eco-systems and impacting the health of locals. This, in turn, safeguards the quality of air and water needed by the community.
Such benefits are consistent with two SDGs that are Goal 3, which deals with good health and well-being, and Goal 6, which focuses on clean water and sanitation.
Secondly, reducing or eliminating waste undercuts the need for more virgin resources such as water and minerals. It is due to the constant reuse and recycling, which provides a company with the materials it needs to remain in operation. This has many benefits on the environment.
It decreases the rate of cutting trees and mining activities carried out in search of much-needed resources. This helps to prevent the loss of biodiversity and soil degradation.
It also prevents the depletion of vital resources by the current generation that are also needed by future generations.
Therefore, by reducing and even eliminating waste, a circular economy helps to create the right balance. This, in turn, works to the benefit of communities and the environment.
See Related: What are the 3R’s of Waste Management?
2. Circular Economy Encourages The Use of Renewable Energy
A circular economy demands the efficient use of energy by businesses. This requires the minimization of waste and the use of energy sources that can be reused and cannot be exhausted. This is why renewable energy sources are the preferred choice in a circular economy.
The increased use of renewable energy in a circular economy contributes to sustainability in many ways.
First, renewable energy reduces dependence on conventional sources of energy, such as fossil fuels. These traditional sources are responsible for emitting toxic particles that pose a threat to human health. They are also to blame for greenhouse gases, which cause global warming.
Thus, since renewables offer clean energy, their increased use in a circular economy will play a significant role in promoting sustainability.
Renewable energy sources also do not require intense activities such as mining, as is the case with fossil fuels. Instead, they can be collected from any geographical location without making any changes to the surrounding provided that you have the right equipment.
This eliminates the need to clear trees and engage in mining activities, practices that often lead to the destruction of habitats and degradation of the environment.
Thus, by advocating for increased use of renewable energy, the circular economy will play a crucial role in the realization of two SDGs.
They are Goal 7, focusing on affordable and clean energy, and Goal 15, which deals with life on land. This will then help in securing a sustainable world for current and future generations.
3. Circular Economy Encourages Sustainable Consumption
Without sustainable consumption, efficiency in the use of raw materials becomes useless. This is because firms are still forced to produce more to meet the high demand for their goods.
That is why circular economy advocates for not only responsible production but also sustainable consumption. This requires consumers to engage in desirable practices that promote sustainability in one way or another.
For instance, they are required to purchase greener products, consume better, and give up items for recycling instead of throwing them away. Such practices are meant to prevent the wastage of vital resources and the pollution of the environs.
When consumers take such actions, they also force organizations engaged in the production of consumer goods to observe eco-friendly practices. They start producing greener products and preventing pollution by recycling items that bear their brand.
The efforts help in the preservation and protection of the environment, which are crucial to the realization of a sustainable future.
4. It Creates Job Opportunities
A circular economy plays a significant role in creating jobs across the world.
Sustainability cannot be realized when millions of people are suffering due to a lack of employment opportunities. This is because when there are no jobs, families cannot afford basic needs.
People then struggle to survive, leading to increased crime rates and conflicts, among other vices that contribute to the development of unsustainable communities.
Therefore, by creating job opportunities, a circular economy will give people a chance to a better life. This will be a step towards the realization of Goal 8 of the SDGs, which focuses on decent employment and economic growth.
But how does a circular economy create employment opportunities? It does so in many ways.
The need to make processes more efficient and to develop new ways of turning wastes into resources requires research and development of new technologies. This means that new job positions are created that require skilled, semi-skilled, and unskilled personnel.
A circular economy also requires firms to come up with ways of retrieving used and broken products from consumers. This results in the creation of jobs since the management has to recruit individuals to fill positions such as those of truck drivers and loaders.
The creation of these employment opportunities will provide the jobless with a source of income. This means improved standards of living since individuals and families will be able to afford nutritious food and better housing.
This will then play a significant role in the development of sustainable communities.
5. It Contributes to Economic Growth
A circular economy contributes to economic growth, which is necessary if a nation is to become sustainable.
It creates new profit-making opportunities. For instance, there is a rise of new companies specializing in the collection and conversion of waste into useful resources. This leads to the emergence and growth of new industries in a nation.
Companies that have adopted a circular economy also benefit from reduced operational costs. This is because there is less demand for virgin materials, which are usually costly. Furthermore, reduced dependence on new resources protects a firm from fluctuating market prices. All these help a company to grow due to increased profits.
The emergence of new industries and the growth of companies contribute to economic growth. They ensure that there is the provision of goods and services for the local and international markets. The businesses also provide the government with increased revenue, which is later used to improve other sectors of the economy.
The emergence of new companies and the growth of existing ones also create better employment opportunities, which also play a role in economic development. This is because well-paying jobs increase the disposable income of individuals and families. This makes them powerful consumers, which helps to keep the economy running.
The disposable income also allows individuals and families to invest. This increases the ability of a nation to produce goods and services at lower costs and to prevent inflation, which, if unmanaged, can hurt the economy. Hence, increased investment plays an influential role in improving productivity, which then contributes to economic growth.
Based on the analysis, it’s clear that a circular economy will play an influential role in helping nations across the world to come up with sustainable economies.
In doing so, it will have helped them achieve Goal 8 of the SDGs, which focuses on decent work and economic growth.
6. It Promotes Collaboration Between Stakeholders
The move towards securing a sustainable future requires a partnership between different groups of people and institutions. This is because the desired result can only be attained when stakeholders understand and play their role in the realization of sustainable goals.
This is why a circular economy is key to a sustainable future since it promotes collaboration between the stakeholders.
For instance, a circular economy advocates for sustainable procurement. This requires producers of raw materials to work together with suppliers and manufacturing companies to determine the right quantities of resources required at a particular time. This prevents the over-extraction of materials, which can hurt the environment.
Manufacturing companies also collaborate with consumers who are present at the final stage of a product lifecycle. This allows for activities such as the collection of used products from consumers for reusing and recycling.
Conclusion on the Circular Economy
A circular economy is crucial in the realization of a sustainable future for all.
It helps to reduce and even eliminate wastes that are responsible for the pollution of the surroundings. Reducing wastes also decreases the demand for virgin materials, which then prevents the depletion of vital resources and degradation of the environment.
The circular economy encourages the use of renewable energy sources since they can be reused and cannot be exhausted. Renewables are eco-friendly since they do not emit harmful gases nor result in the degradation of the environment.
A circular economy encourages sustainable consumption. Consumers are challenged to engage in environment-friendly practices that promote sustainability.
Companies that adopt a circular economy creates job opportunities. This helps to improve the living standards of the locals. They are then able to afford nutritious food and better housing, leading to sustainable communities.
Circular economy leads to the emergence of new industries and allows companies that adopt the system to experience growth. This also helps to create better employment opportunities leading to increased disposable income. All these contribute to the growth of a sustainable economy.
A circular economy encourages collaboration between stakeholders. This plays an influential role in ensuring that sustainable practices are observed at every stage of a product’s lifecycle.
It is, therefore, clear that a circular economy is crucial to the realization of a sustainable future since it contributes to environmental, social, and economic sustainability.
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