What Is A 'Circular Economy'?


New GSA Student intern Haen Jennie Cho explores the concept of a 'Circular Economy' and why it's so important in the modern world. 


"The world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste annually, with at least 33 percent of that—extremely conservatively—not managed in an environmentally safe manner.” reported by the world bank. According to this data how much waste would there be by the year of 2050? The most certain answer for this question is that the amount of waste produced will never decrease. The amount of new products will increase as the population grows and hence result with more wastes. Merely facing the upcoming problem by consuming less and recycling is unrealistic and useless.  We need to shift our focus to a more innovative and productive idea — the Circular Economy. 

(Image from Interior Architects, accessed online 25 March 2021)


A Circular Economy is a systemic approach to economic development designed to benefit business, society, and the environment, aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources.


How does the Circular Economy work? 

  • First of all, Circular Economy "Design out waste and pollution." A circular economy thinks of eliminating the negative impacts of economic impacts that harm human health and natural systems—for instance, eliminating unnecessary plastic packaging by redesigning the container or creating a new delivery method in the first place.

  • Next, Circular Economy "Keep Products and Materials in use." A circular economy favors activities that preserve value in the form of energy, labor, and materials. This means that in a Circular Economy, products are designed to be reused, remanufactured, and recycled to keep products circulating in the economy. 

  • Lastly, the Circular Economy "Regenerates Natural resources." A circular economy avoids the use of non-renewable resources and preserves or enhances renewable ones. For instance, any plastics made in the Circular Economy shouldn't be made from finite fossil resources; they should be made from renewable resources that would benefit the environment.


Benefits of the Circular Economy 


The Circular Economy is currently viewed as a solution based perspective for achieving economic development while respecting environmental limits. 

The shift to the Circular Economy would:

  • Bring us new job opportunities 

  • Reduce waste & annual greenhouse emission & environmental pressure 

  • Reduce cost for companies 

  • Deliver more competitive economy while creating more job opportunities 

Real life examples and Companies that are engaging Circular Economic activities:


  • Pharrell Williams has joined the Circular Economy with his clothing line “RAW” for the oceans, by recovering plastics found on the shoreline into wearable fashion. This is done by turning plastics into a weavable clothing fiber called Bionic Yarn.

  • A company called the“Johnson Control” has designed a battery that is 99% recyclable. By encouraging consumers to recycle batteries they have prevented millions of batteries that would have ended up in landfills. 

  • A famous shoe brand “Timberland” has partnered with a tire manufacturer “Omni United” to produce shoes with recycled tires. 


The Circular Economy was regarded only as an ‘idea’ for the far future since the 1970s; however, now is the time for us to start shifting our focus and take this ‘idea’ into action. We are living a comfortable life where we can just say goodbye to the materials we used as we send them to the trash bin, we don’t really think about how our waste would end up as soon as it is out of our sight. However, there is a certain amount of waste that the earth could afford and as time passes, the population grows, and more products are produced, one day the stacked up waste would obstruct our future. Humans have spent their whole life to pursue comfort, but we shouldn’t deceive ourselves and tell us that it is a right thing to continue. If our comfort is harming others we should change our route and find more innovative ideas that would equally benefit us and the world. That is the essence of human knowledge and innovation, and the path that the Circular Economy would open. 









Posted by Kelly Harding on Mar 25, 2021 10:39 AM America/Chicago

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