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Imagine a world without waste: it's possible with a circular economy

September 24, 2015

Imagine a world without waste: it's possible with a circular economy

Alicia Clegg
Thursday 24 September 2015 12.55 BST

The world’s mineral and metal reserves are dwindling, but that doesn’t mean it’s time for development to switch into reverse gear. If we could redesign our profligate industrial processes, say circular economists, we could put a stop to our throwaway habits without sacrificing growth.

Instead of burning or burying millions of tonnes of waste every year, we could take today’s garbage − even the fragments of plastics that hapless seabirds ingest − and use them as the building blocks to make anything from carpets to laptops.

Although the circular economy is often mentioned in the same breath as recycling, the two should not be conflated. Materials that have been jumbled up in the waste stream or contaminated lose much of their value and the recycling process for cleaning and converting them into usable products can itself consume a large amount of energy.

In the circular economy the emphasis is on designing goods to be long-lasting, easy to repair and reuse, easy to disassemble and easy to remake into items that are as good, if not better, than their virgin equivalents.

And it is not all about squeezing more life from a fixed stock of resources that have been dug from the ground at heavy cost to the environment. By developing bio-materials, circular innovators hope one day to replace petroleum-derived plastics with compostable plant-based materials that can be returned to the ecosystem after use.

Read more at The Guardian.

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