What is a Circular Economy?
Today we wanted to bring you a subject of great interest: the Circular Economy model. Nowadays, it is crucial to adopt this type of model in different industries, especially in the clothing industry where the social and environmental costs are dreadful and the waste of resources is massive.
According to Fashion Revolution, “Today both people and the environment suffer as a result of the way fashion is made, sourced and consumed”.
Also, we as consumers or as people involved in this industry, have accountability on how fashion is impacting people’s lives and the environment and can encourage transition.
So let’s start by knowing what is a Circular Economy and learn how this model can actually not only save resources and be ethically respectful towards Nature and the people involved, but also be more financially and time efficient and promote creativity and new job opportunities, boosting the overall Economy that we live in.
What is a Circular Economy?
It’s a model of Economy that ensures that the items that we produce will, after serving their purpose, be reutilized, restored or recycled in new useful products, avoiding wasteful toxic matter and redesigning the consumption of finite resources.
It’s known, as the name says, to be a model of closed-loop production and consumption systems, that allows the economy to work more efficiently at all scales, whether in large or small businesses, organizations or as individuals, globally or locally.
This model is based on three principles:
- Design out waste and pollution,
- Keep products and materials in use,
- Regenerate natural systems.
And distinguishes two main cycles:
- The Biological cycle: where the ingredients or ‘nutrients’ are at least non-toxic, and can safely be returned to the biosphere, either directly or in a cascade of consecutive uses such as natural fibers and dye.
- The Technical cycle: where the materials and products are usually made with unsuitable characteristics for the biosphere, like metals and plastics, are redesigned from the start for reuse, repair, remanufacture or recycling, for example, accessories with plastic materials.
What are the steps towards a Economy?
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation this type of Economy depends on four essential building blocks such as:
- Circular Design: the main concern is to project products with materials and components that are designed to last, for easy end-of-life sorting whether to separate or reuse of products and materials.
- Business Models: the creation of innovative business models that can replace existing ones is a key element to a successful Circular Economy implementation in the industries.
- Reverse Cycles: by rethinking the processing, to a cost-efficient one, better-quality collection and treatment systems, and effective segmentation of end-of-life products.
- Enablers and favorable system conditions: it’s important that all of these measures are supported by policy makers, educational institutions and popular opinion leaders that have a broad communication reach, decisive role in the processes and financial capacity to infuse change.
Why should we adopt a Circular Economy?
A Circular Economy will reduce the pressures on the environment, by reducing the emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG), use of resources and impact on landscapes and animal habitats, limiting biodiversity loss. It will also help with the existing dependence on importation of raw materials and price fluctuation and availability. The Circular model can also save money to those involved. To the industries by the efficient rethinking of the use of materials and possible recycle, avoiding new acquisition of unnecessary resources, and to the consumers, because the products are made to last and be resistant.
Waste prevention, eco-design, reuse and other “circular” measures are estimated to generate net savings of around 600 billion euros for EU companies (around 8% of their total annual turnover), creating 170,000 direct jobs in the waste management sector.
Making Fashion Circular
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation started this initiative back in 2017, on a different name - Circular Fibers Initiative – where they launched a program that aimed to create a new textile industry. In 2018, their goal was to fully redesign the operating model, going further from textiles to packaging and other steps in the former Fashion industry economy, and the movement took a new name - Make Fashion Circular. This initiative has now the participation of leaders in the industry such as Burberry, Gap Inc., H&M Group, Nike Inc. and others.
We would like to challenge you to go watch this three-part video series by their Foundation that explores what the Circular Economy really means and examples of how some companies are doing it today.