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The circular economy - an introduction

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Introducing the Circular Economy - One Bag Zero Waste video

Life on planet Earth has worked cyclically for millions of years. Nature has no waste.

(photo credit: nasa)

Plants and animals grow, live, and die. And what remains of them turns into nutrients for other living beings.

The end of life has always been something else’s gain.

However, humans broke that circularity by designing and creating new things which remain outside such a circle and remain for centuries.

We learnt about substances that took millions of years to form – hydrocarbons – and how to mine, refine and utilize them, sometimes in the space of seconds.

Using these materials releases chemical substances and energy into the atmosphere that had been inert, inactive, and ineffectual for millennia[i].

The problem: long term pollution, environmental degradation, world’s population increase

We are becoming so many: we are now approaching 8 billion people[ii].

The World Bank says that we will generate over 2 billion tonnes of waste this year, to rise by 70% within a generation. The EU estimates this figure as much higher. One billion tonnes of this waste will be sent to some form of landfill[iii].

And we cause the emissions of millions of tonnes of CO2. Its concentration levels in the atmosphere are at their highest in over 800,000 years[iv].

Through our exploitation of nature and further environmental degradation we are not only harming the beauty of our variable world and erasing other species from existing (the extinction rate of species is rocketing[v]) but we harm ourselves: pandemics are increasing and “the incidence of cancer, pulmonary, cardiovascular, neurological and cellular and hundreds of other malformations and problems affecting the human species has risen these past decades”[vi][vii].

On the brink of extinction (i.e., with 1,000 or fewer individuals) - the Sumatran rhino (image credit: Rhett A. Butler , Clarion island wren (image credit: Claudio Contreras Koob), (C) Española Giant Tortoise image credit: G.C.), and Harlequin frog image credit: G.C.).

Environmentally, the warnings are now evident, with “once in every 500 years events” happening more than once a year and droughts and forest fires being more common[viii].

A perfect storm is approaching, and it is in our selfish interests to change behaviour.

If we are to exist, it cannot be this way. After all, there is no planet B.

And we are optimistic that it won’t be. The causes of our optimism? The increase in education and its effects

  • in every country where family planning education has increased, birth rates have plummeted to a sustainable level.

  • in every council that educates about the environment, pollution and emissions reduce[ix] and recycling increases[x].

Our A Future without Rubbish project incorporates the ‘One Bag Zero Waste’ campaign – the campaign that works with schools, councils, businesses and communities and is endorsed by national government.

This video, combined with a school assembly, introduces the concept of the ‘circular economy’ using a real, tangible example of what it entails. This must be our future.

We can’t sort these problems out tomorrow.

The ‘One Bag’ in our ‘One Bag Zero Waste’ campaign used to be three plastic water bottles. Now it is a bag that will last for decades. When it is irreparable it is recyclable exactly in these (link to sites in Queens Park) points.

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