What is the Circular Economy?
Circular economy is a new way of looking at how we use—and ultimately reuse—materials and resources. Our economy is resource-based, meaning it depends on the ability to preserve finite resources in order to succeed. Historically, products have been produced and consumed through a linear process (make, take, waste), being designed and used for convenience with a limited life and diminishing value over time. Environmental, economic, and social costs aren’t considered in the purchase price. Circularity incorporates better design that consumes less raw material during production, maximizes value during use, and improves products and services that are intended to eliminate waste. A circular economy ultimately moves beyond a traditionally linear approach to create a more sustainable, longer-lasting and higher-value system of use.
While the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle) have become everyday terms and are the foundation to environmental education, moving to a circular economy shifts our focus to prioritize environmental protection from the start. In a circular economy, products are re-designed to optimize their usefulness and lifecycle, reuse is promoted, collection is improved, and investments are made in infrastructure to ultimately develop markets for recycled material which are then used to create optimized products again; an economy that filters through a circular approach maximizes resources for years to come.
The solution is in the circular economy where we design products so resources can be reused and reinvested in new products again and again.
How is This Different Than Recycling?
The circular economy goes far beyond finding a recycling solution at end-of-life. Circularity incorporates better design that consumes less raw material during production, maximizes value during use, and improves products and services that are intended to eliminate wastes. Watch our video Beyond Recycling to learn more.
How Can Canadians Advance the Circular Economy?
Purchase smartly designed products meant to last longer, be reused, refurbished, and dismantled. Support companies that offer take-back of products after use. Embrace access over ownership. Use procurement and purchasing power to influence greater performance and deliver environmental and social value. Think:
- Share. A circular economy supports the idea of access over ownership. By shifting to access over ownership, manufacturers are incented to make longer lasting and more efficient products that are designed with durability, repairability and reuse as primary considerations. Support the sharing economy by borrowing, renting, and sharing products.
- Repair. Purchase items that can be dismantled for repair. Purchase repaired and refurbished electronics. Spend time finding repair manuals and learning how to DIY. Support local repair shops. Visit repair cafés in your area, or host your own!
- Reuse. Find other purposes for items instead of throwing them in the garbage. Support reuse by: participating in container reuse programs, choosing reusables over single-use, swapping, reselling, or donating.
Facts and Stats
- Canada needs a circular economy that is restorative and regenerative by design; and aims to keep products, components, and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.
- The circular economy is built from a realignment of our values designed to protect our natural capital, reduce carbon emissions, and eliminate waste. As documented by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, our ability to achieve climate targets requires us to address the 45 percent of overlooked global emissions generated from how we make and use products and how we produce food. A circular economy can help tackle these overlooked emissions by transforming the ways goods are made and used.
- Founded on sustainable use of ecosystems, biodiversity, and the implementation of green energy systems, a circular model will generate natural, social, and economic capital.
- We can re-design the way our economy works by designing products and services that limit consumption, improve the value materials and protect resources
- The circular economy aims to redefine products and services to design waste out.
- Circular business models will prove essential for businesses that want to be future-proof in a society where resource constraints are a growing problem and consumer attitudes are shifting towards alternatives for ownership and consumption.
Five Business Models of Circularity
Five circular models that underpin the circular economy are based on the principles of longevity, reuse, repairability, upgrade, share, and material reduction and recovery. Each model is unique, and procurement can encourage suppliers and vendors to innovate and deliver one or a combination of models.
Benefits of the Circular Economy
Circularity can improve the value of natural resources, reduce carbon emissions, and eliminate waste. It redefines value, and encourages innovation in product design and business delivery systems. Transitioning to a circular economy doesn’t balance economic, environmental, and social priorities in isolation: it delivers them simultaneously. Join us week by week throughout Circular Economy Month as we celebrate the environmental, social, and economic benefits of circular economy.