By reducing energy and replacing the fossil-based energy solutions by renewables, would only reduce our CO2 emissions by 55%. The other 45% percent of our CO2 emissions can be reduced by creating a circular economy (Ellen MacArthur Foundation, 2020). So why don’t we just do that? Our economy is structure according to linear principles, circular principles require a paradigm-shift in vision, strategy and operations.
The principles of the linear economy are just too common, we hardly see them anymore. To shift to another set of principles, it will help to recognize the linear principles, so we can replace them by new ones. In the linear economy, we collect raw materials from nature, we add value, transport them and bring them to the customer. After usage, these customers will throw their products away and buy new ones. Value chains connect by transactions between customers and suppliers. Fulfilling the economic agreements, timing and quality requirements are the only accountability rules in this game. Every organisation in this value chain separately is used to focus on maximizing their turnovers and profits, which can be reached by producing, transporting or selling as many products as possible.
Reflecting on the linear principles
The important aspect that has been left out in this linear model is the impact on nature and the value of nature. Our way of organising and producing is not sustainable, since we use more and more materials, transport products globally and throw more products away. This doesn’t make sense. When we think back on the times when materials were scarce, just after World War II for example, people would re-use and repair their products or give away products that still can be used. In these days, now prosperity has increased, we just buy new products after one’s broken. We have to re-value nature again and close loops before our materials will become too scarce. We have to act now.
When we talk about circular principles, we mean the principles of:
- Design products that last long, can be re-used again, can easily be repaired. After usage they can be taken apart and can be re-used again for producing new products.
- In this new economic system, less waste is created and less energy is used.
- No harm is created to the environment – in using no harmful chemical products. Maybe even biodegradable products.
- Only using renewable energy.
The main goal of changing the linear value chain to a circular value chain is to enable nature to regenerate. By using less materials and only regenerative materials (fast-growing wood which can be replaced after usage), nature will be able to thrive again.