A circular economy should see a departure from the current “take, make and dispose” approach that underlines much of modern civilisation. Instead, in the circular economy model, durable goods would be designed so that they could be repaired rather than replaced and biological materials would be managed so that they could be returned to the biosphere without contamination.
During 2013, the World Economic Forum in partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – with the support of McKinsey & Company – engaged in conversations with key business leaders and experts to identify the relevant trigger points for scaling up this new model. ‘Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains,’ launched in the Forum’s 2014 Annual Meeting in Davos, describes the results of this research and lays out a plan of action.
The report highlights the need for more circular flows of major global raw materials, such as polymers, steel and glass. This would be a decisive step in itself, allowing re-used and virgin materials to become interchangeable. This opens up the economic potential of the circular model – in some cases leading to 40-50% savings – and moves away from today’s “recycling” which generally downgrades materials, leading to eventual waste and continuing high demand for virgin materials.
Circular economy in the news
In November 2013 an FT report reported on the latest universities to join the circular management movement and commit to helping redesign the world’s economy on the principles of circular management. Tongji in China and MIT in the US joined Yale, Stanford and Berkeley in the US and London Business School, Imperial College and Cranfield in the UK.