The circular economy, a concept as old as time

New definition, ancient practice

The definition of a circular economy today is:

An economic system that aims to reduce waste and promote the continual reuse of materials.

That’s a difficult sentence to digest huh?

The reason is simple. The world of capital investment has taken a concept as old as time and given it a name tag and a shiny suit.

In reality when its stripped back the circular economy is:

Reusing and recycling anything designed for one use into something different.

Today there are some great examples of the circular economy in action.

The folks buying and selling vintage clothes. Anything made from recycled materials. The trend for “upcycled” furniture etc.

These are all great examples of the circular economy.

It’s not something new

In the recent past, this was the way of life. Anything and everything was reused and recycled.

The term recycled wasn’t used of course, but that’s what was happening.

Clothes, toys, and books passed down between siblings and relatives. Yeah, that’s the concept in action.

If you ever sent time with grandparents who never threw anything out. They were living by the concept also.

What changed?

As we became richer in the ’60s and ’70s, the world moved to the globalized model that it runs on today. We had disposable income.

Once we had disposable income, the world got smaller. We could travel cheaply and so could consumer goods.

Even expensive luxuries like consumer electronics became throw away items.

By the turn of the 21st century, the circular economy was gone. We had become a throw-away society.

20 years later things are changing again

We have come to realize that the values of re-use and recycle so important to our grandparent’s are important to us.

It’s not some grand financial philosophy, it’s simply doing more with what we have.

The more we re-use and recycle our plastic products, for example, the less waste we produce. The less plastic we use the less we spend on those products.

The less waste we generate the lower the cost of clean up and disposal. This is just one example but its a powerful one.

Next time you read about the new and exciting circular economy. Remember its an old and powerful friend.

All we have done is redress it in a new and shiny suit.


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