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"If you imagine a car driving towards the edge of a cliff... sustainability has traditionally  been talking about slowing the car down and you still see this as the main way it is communicated. But  circular economy is talking about turning the car around away from the cliff completely." 

- Nicola Evans -

The dilution and distortion of Circular Economy

that will lead us further away from solving sustainability and climate challenges 


Circular Economy is NOT Recycling Economy 

Recycling as practiced today is largely still an attempt to make afterthoughts less bad. It still is done at the end of the pipe and it does not aim to retain the value of all those resources that went into producing the product for a specific use. Similar issues with up-cycling and waste-to energy solutions. Within the context of circular economy, recycling has the lowest priority. Getting more efficient in afterthought solutions won't solve the problem.   


Circular Economy is NOT just doing less harm

The circular economy is more than just minimising waste. Instead it is about how society accesses and benefits from goods and services in a way that is regenerative and sustainable beyond "doing less harm" to actively "doing more good". It is a re-think of how businesses generate their profits and support livelihoods. It is about how consumption and growth leads to better lives, be it human or otherwise. 


Circular Economy is NOT purely about the environment or product design

It is an economic strategy to ensure that the economy functions to serve society without compromising and even enhancing the betterment of the living system within which society exists. Aligning to work with nature to solve these needs is where further value creation is possible. That said, the design component in the definition is well beyond just product design or material choices. It is all the way from designing how people even get the performances they need to live their lives. 

The danger of a diluted understanding of CE

By asking industries to heavily invest in recycling and waste management infrastructures, which take decades to yield returns, we:

  • perpetuate the notion of waste

  • delay the adoption of genuine circular practices (upstream, by design)

  • divert resources away from innovative circular solutions that businesses are ready to deploy and have opportunities for greater value creation (locked-in time)

By focussing on just doing less harm, we:

  • perpetuate temporary solutions that treat the symptoms of pollution and waste 

  • delay the deployment of other solutions to deliver performance needed by people to live the lives they want

  • enforce the misconception that sustainability is about 'having less' and action is 'managing risk and cost'

  • slow down action taking

Circular Economy is: 

  • a systems solutions framework that recognises the need to profit

  • about upstream intention

  • more of built-in impact right from the start

  • about more good an not just less harm

  • cascading values across different levels of society and economy

  • about working with nature, not on nature

  • about hope, creativity, innovation

Read our position paper on circular economy

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Using Circular Economy Principles to detect GREENWASHING

Let's look deeper into the

Circular Economy Definition:

  • Economy: How people access good and services on a daily basis to live the lives they want AND how they make a living (Livelihoods)

  • Restorative: Something that is broken can be recovered

  • Regenerative: Something that is no more can be made again

  • By Design: INTENTION (upstream thinking, not an afterthought, systems thinking)

  • Systems solution framework: Not a single product or single company can solve it all, everything interacts




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