The effects of global warming is increasingly perceivable nowadays. It’s apparent that today’s economic system is far from being a solution. Circular economy is an alternative economic system that is developed against linear economy.
The effects of global warming is increasingly perceivable nowadays. It’s apparent that today’s economic system is far from being a solution. In fact it is the engine which drove us to the edge. We have to put an and to it asap. One of the obstacle’s of this, daily habits of the modern human. The things that aren’t necessity before own it, are became a must after become a habit. It’s normal most of the population don’t want to change their habits and content oneself with less. Sustainability and circular economy concepts are rise on this point. Everybody understand differently what sustainability is. Most of the companies see sustainability as an economic term, but in actual fact sustainability is an environmental term. It means adapting to the cycle of nature and meeting our needs in a way that doesn’t harm the environment. Circular economy is a concept under sustainability that’s also a part of Europe Sustainable Development Goals.
Circular economy, is an alternative economic system that is developed against linear economy. Main purpose of it is to use raw materials with high efficiency. When you hear it first time, it sounds like a new concept, but actually it’s developed and large scale version of sharing and saving society which is a part of Anatolian culture. It’s based on used as much as you can the things you own, share when you don’t want to use anymore, repair if you can and recycle principles.
Unlike most thoughts, circular economy doesn’t evaluate industrial system and consumption society as a cause of global warming. It assume as a main purpose not to use resources effectively and wrong waste management. In other words, according the circular economy it’s possible to create a new system by reusing the raw materials that humanity already have. This system can be a solution to waste problem and overconsumption of natural resources.
Main values of the circular economy are named as “the era of R”. The meaning of the era of R is reuse, repair, remarket, remanufacture, re-refine and re-programme.
Even the basis of the era of R are focused on consumption stage, process is start with design. Products should be designed durable, design should be purposed to easily decompound to the raw materials. Production process shouldn’t involve toxic chemicals. Technology should be developed to improve design and production techniques. Recycling and upcycling techniques should be improved with the help of technology.
After the production process, it’s time to consume. Consumer should use durable and reusable products instead of disposable ones. Reuse, repurpose, share, sell and repair are also duty of the consumer. Manufacturers should take responsibility and get back used products. They can also provide repair services.
Fashion and Circular Economy
Fashion industry is one of the most suitable industry’s to circular economy model. Before fast fashion trend started, clothes weren’t disposable. Garments were produced from high quality fabrics with durable sewing techniques, that’s why they last longer. If you look at vintage clothes, you can easily understand what this means. Today most people see clothes as disposable, because they are very cheap. The price of the cheap garments is environmental pollution. Fashion industry is the 2. most polluting industry to the clean water resources. If you wonder the first one, it’s oil industry. During the clothing production, forests are cut of to make fabrics, water resources using generously for cotton agriculture, lots of chemicals are used during the production process and it cause earth and water pollution. Actually fast fashion is not cheap, the price is bigger than it looks.
Circular economy recomends to inform people about how to care things they have and how to repair. It also says fashion brands to collect their garments and sell them as second hand after repair and cleaning process or if the garment is in a condition that can’t used, recycle them.
Some sustainable brands are embraced circular economy allready. They use high quality materials that produced environment friendly and create durable clothes and accessories.
Circular Economy Examples
- Patagonia that is a famous outdoor clothing brand, one of the first brands that produced eco-friendly products. They use recycled down and polyester, environment friendly fabrics. They have videos about to easily repair clothes.
- Industrial carpet brand Interface , produced carpets that can easily separated to parts and provide their customers repair service. Most of their income comes from repairing or changing only the damaged part to carpet. They barely don’t sell new carpets. When we think that these are industrial carpets, not to get a new carpet for a small problem makes a big positive environmental impact. It saves resources and energy.
- Catepiller produced all their machines with same production technique. That makes easier to change parts. They take the old machines and reuse the parts that are still functional.
- Dutch phone brand FairPhone produce new phones using by old phones pieces.
- Circular economy reach out even fast fashion. H&M collect used clothes and conducting test works to selling second hand garments.
Criticism to Circular Economy
At first sounds like a perfect alternative to current economic system, but it’s not that ideal. There are some parts that can be criticised. Circular economy count society as a consumer society like linear economy and create solutions based on that.
Circular economy doesn’t mention about how can be ensured to people use their ownings longer and not get bored. Just like Robinson Crusoe who fell on a deserted island and instead of adopting hunter-gathering life in the island, trying to maintain the habits he was accustomed to in the capitalist order he came to domesticated animals and cultivated, a person who grow up in consumer society can’t easily abandon disposable products and fast consumption. Because of the nature, people want to continue their behaviour and live in the order they used to.
Circular economy assumes that raw materials can 100 % recyclable without loosing any value. When we look at the data’s, they show today’s technology isn’t enough to do that. Today most of the recyclables are actually downcycled. Every raw material can’t recycled infinitely. Paper can recycle only 5-7 times. After that fiber get shorten and it can only downcycle to low valued product. After few times downcycled it becomes useless. Useless paper can compost, but this complete carbon cycle a lot longer than cutting a tree and getting new paper.
Raw materials that can be recycled or upcycled are very few. Alluminium and glass can infinite times recycle if they are pure, but it’s not possible to recycle all materials this efficient.
Even FairPhone which is one of the best examples of circular economy, contains microchips and non-recyclable synthetic materials. In this example only 30% of raw materials can be recycled.
A lot of technology is needed to make recycling assumed in circular economy. Eventhough this happens, it doesn’t mean that 100% of raw materials can be used again. Designs must be made to easily seperate the item to the raw materials.
Energy Recycling Problem
90% of the energy that used in worldwide is provided from nonrenewable energy sources. The theory of the circular economy can be supplied by using the resources that have been extracted so far is came to deadlock in here. Eventhough all energy sources can be switched with sustainable ones, we still need to use new sources obtaining energy. If it can be done, still solar panels and wind panels need to lithium batteries that can’t be recycled or reused.
Economic Growth Problem
Every year resource and energy consumption are increasing as a consequence of increasing population and economic growth aims. Economic growth will continue to be targeted as long as the society is considered a consumer society. Eventhough 100% of existing resources can be recycled without any loss, as long as countrys’ economic growth target continued, new resources has to be used.
Although there are aspects that need to be considered more, positive aspects should not be ignored. It’s very useful concept to use better existing resources. Unfortunately recycling and reusing aren’t solution to global warming and environment problems alone. Consumer society and economic growth systems should be changed too. It seems to be one of the most logical approaches to take advantage of it’s solutions, considering the shortcomings of circular economy.