The linear system of our economy (extraction, manufacturing, use and disposal) has reached its limits. The depletion of resources and raw materials is more present tan ever, for this reason the circular economy proposes a new economic and social model that optimizes materials, stocks, energy and waste, with the firm intention of making a efficient use of resources. This implies the reduction of consumption, the time invested, the energy sources used and the waste produced during the manufacturing, distribution and use process of goods and services.
The Circular Economy is a concept that encompasses all those companies, projects and initiatives that use a sustainable economy, whose objective is that the value of products, materials and resources remain in the economic circle for as long as possible. The goal of the Circular Economy is to extend the useful life of waste, converting it into resources, to implement a fair, social, collaborative and sustainable economy away from the current linear “use and throw away” system.
The circular economy bets on ecodesign, designing the product to be deconstructed later. In this way, products and services are created taking into account that the product is recyclable, reusable, extending its life as much as possible and reducing its impact on the environment.
On the other hand, the circular economy directly affects a series of very important factors for the company:
- Raw materials: are between 50-75% of the costs of a company. Their availability and prices depend on many factors that often cause problems in production and in economic predictions. Using other alternatives, such as secondary materials (from recycling) or valid components that are recovered from remanufactured products, helps reduce dependence on raw materials, as well as reducing costs.
- Energy: The cost of electricity from fossil fuels and natural gas can increase between 5-10% each year. The use of alternatives that reduce the dependence on them has a positive economic and environmental impact, such as renewable energy. There are solutions that pay for themselves in a reasonable period of time.
- Waste: the generation of waste is associated with inefficiencies in manufacturing. Designing a product considering that a series of wastes will be produced should not be allowed, for corporate responsibility and for environmental responsibility. When genereting waste, you are missing an opportunity to save on expensive materials, and it generates a cost for the management of the waste itself, internally and externally with a waste manager.
Principles of Circular Economy
It is a paradigm change called to modify the entire business cycle. This system has several principles:
- Eco-conception. All environmental impacts linked to the life cycle of a product must be identified to integrate them into its design and production.
- Industrial and territorial ecology. Establishment of an industrial organization in each territory that allows an optimized management of stocks and flows of materials, energy and services.
- Functionality versus possession. Privilege use over possession, think more about selling a service than a good. The turn of the powerful automobile industry towards the concept of mobility service.
- Second use. Another key is to reintroduce in the economic circuit those products that no longer have their initial functionality to the economic circuit to give them another use.
- The resilience of products proposes to reduce obsolescence and drastically increase functionality and use.
- Reuse. Many parts and components of products can be reused for the elaboration of new products contributing to this cyclical system.
- Repair. Regulatory measures include forcing the manufacturer to create more repairable products. The products, while maintaining their efficiency, will have to be simpler, modular and versatile.
- The use of waste, only non-recyclable can reach the landfill.
- Waste valuation. Using the energy of non-recyclable waste.