The Scottish and UK Governments, along with the EU, are targeting a move towards zero waste circular economies. What does this mean? Since the Industrial Revolution we have run what is called a Linear Economy.

This works on the basis that we ‘take-make-dispose’ with little or no reuse as the value of this model is in producing and selling as many products as possible.

It is a growth model based on infinite resources. This doesn’t work.

If we use more, to make more, to buy more, to own more, to throw away more, then where do we think all this waste is going?

Image from Government of the Netherlands website

Image from Government of the Netherlands website

Do we not care? We probably have not been told! 

The Linear Model results in either mass landfill or incineration of waste materials. Neither offers a solution to the problem, nor is it the best use of existing materials.

The events of 2020 appear to have brought about fresh resolve from governments and councils alike to move away from that model to something different, but what are the alternatives to a Linear model?

The second option is to move to a Reuse Economy.

This takes the Linear Model and introduces recycling to create a loop back from after-use into production again.

This model will still result in non-recycled waste created but at a reduced amount. 

The UK has been slowly increasing its recycling capabilities but it is still behind where it should be, and behind other European neighbours, with no signs this is going to change.

The third option is a move to a completely Circular Economy.

In this model there is no waste. All items are designed in such a way that they can be repurposed, reused, repaired and generally kept in the production/use cycle providing a different use, ensuring that there is no waste product.

So, how do you move to a circular economy and is it achievable?

There is a fundamentally huge shift in thinking required and, as always, the problem will be money. It’ll cost money to do it, to change the current set up, change production lines, affect employment, destabilise markets and generally cause a seismic event the likes we have never seen.

There is also the question of how do you design out waste? Is this within our capabilities? 

We are probably looking at the Circular Economy as an aspirational move, given where we are and what our current mindset is.

A more achievable step is to the Reuse Economy and we have been slowly moving to this.

Getting the general public and business on board with such upheavals will not be easy, but they are achievable. A Reuse Economy based on maximising recycling potential, therefore minimising waste is probably where we will end up. This will need people to play a more active role, to hold themselves and business to task, to demand transparency from business and councils on their waste disposal measures and use this as a metric for brand alignment. 

Corporations only understand money. Don’t part with yours unless they measure up.

We need to make waste management sexy.

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