♻ Towards a circular economy: 3 steps we need to take

What is a circular economy?

We take something from the planet each time we make a product.
But we can’t always give back the things we take.

We need a new model for our economy that goes against this take-make-waste approach.

This what a circular economy tries to fix.

A circular economy reduces how much we take from our environment and how much we throw away. It's about making things from what already exists, and re-purposing things instead of throwing them away.

This approach keeps resources in a loop so we can make the most of the things we take from the environment.

You can learn more about the circular economy here.

Key takeaway:

🏭 Linear economy: use & dispose = take, make, waste.
♻️ Circular economy: reuse & remake = take less, make less, waste less.

Three steps to move toward a circular economy

Step 1: ✏️ Design circular products

To move towards a circular economy, we need to think about how we design products. Here we need businesses to stand up. We need businesses to design products that consider its full life cycle.

Responsible design focuses on:

  • Materials used: what is the product made from? Ideally, circular products use existing materials.

  • Product lifespan: how long does the product last? Ideally, circular products are reusable with long lifespans.

  • Recovery path: how can the product be disposed of? Ideally, circular products can be easily recycled.

Patagonia is an example of a business that embeds circular design in what they do. They make clothing from recycled materials, that last decades and provide free repairs & recycle materials once they're worn out. They even tell you not to buy their stuff if you don't need it.

We need more businesses like Patagonia.

Key takeaway:

✏️ Design products made from existing materials, that last long, & can be easily recycled.


Step 2: 🛍️ Think about what you buy

But let's say you're not a business that makes products. What can you do?

To support the circular economy, have a look at what you do in your home and workplace. What we choose to buy (and not buy) adds up and makes a difference.

  • Buy less.

    If you don't need it, don't buy it. Keep reusing things.

  • When you buy, choose circular products.

    Buy second hand when you can. If you can't get it second hand, choose products that are circular. Products made from recycled content, that last a long time, and can be easily recycled once you're done with it.

  • Spread the message.

    Your impact grows when you bring others with you. Buying products isn't the only way to help. Circular products make impact when they replace non-circular products. This means they need to be found, and used by consumers & businesses. Celebrate brands designing circular products and campaign against non-circular products.

Key takeaway:

🛍️ Buy less, choose circular products, and spread the message.


Step 3: 🚛 Make recycling easier & cheaper

To close the loop and recycle more, we need to improve how we deal with waste. We need to make recycling easier & cheaper than making things from scratch, so we can divert waste from landfill and recover valuable resources. To achieve this, we need to solve two challenges:

  1. Make sorting waste easier for households & businesses.

    To maximise what can be recovered, waste needs to be sorted. But sorting waste is confusing. People don't know what you can and can't recycle. And we can't expect everyone to become a recycling expert.

    We need to use good design to make recycling simple and intuitive. We need more initiatives like the Australasian Recycling Label to make it easy for people to understand what is and isn't recyclable.

  2. Upgrade our waste infrastructure.

    We can theoretically recycle most materials - but we don't do this when recycling costs too much, or we don't have facilities with the right capabilities. Upgrading our waste infrastructure solves both problems. By making our current recycling infrastructure more efficient, we can make recycling cheaper. We must also build new capabilities to recycle currently difficult-to-recycle materials.

    We hope that the $190m Recycling Modernisation Fund announced in July by the Australian Government will facilitate important upgrades to our waste and recycling capacity.

🚛 Make recycling easier for households and businesses with better design.
🚛 Make recycling cheaper by upgrading our waste infrastructure.

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