Outlook for the twenty-first century: the Circular economy and industry and overcoming the concept of waste
It is an economic model that is gaining traction alongside the linear economy. It reflects what already happens in nature. A significant concept to the paper-manufacturing industry that means much more than simply using recycled raw materials.
We are increasingly linking the concept of a Circular economy and industry to sustainable growth. This refers to an economic model of creating value based on what already happens in nature. The underlying idea is that economic systems must emulate nature, i.e., put waste back into circulation. Therefore, according to the principles of Circular economy and industry, materials of biological origin should return to the biosphere, while obsolete technical materials should become components for new products. Upstream of all this is a critical reflection of the yet predominant linear economy, one characterized by the so-called “take-make-dispose” growth model, which is increasingly revealing to be inadequate environmentally, socially and economically. This new concept does away with the concept of waste. There is no waste to dispose of in landfills as everything becomes (must become) a recoverable resource to recycle either naturally or through production. This outlook chimes with other key points, such as educating the consumer to become more conscious and attentive to responsible sourcing of materials and the best technology available; the use of renewable energy, eco-designs, choosing efficient products and processes. In this context, the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is key to assessing the environmental and social impact of a product or service. It is also interesting to note that the paper-manufacturing industry – especially in Europe – has long been committed to developing a low-carbon bio-economy that has much in common with this concept. In the light of a sometimes reductive and simplified concept of the Circular economy and industry, the term “circular” too often is synonymous with simply the use of recycled raw materials. As we have seen, the concept is far more complex and covers a broad set of issues and practices; practices such as procuring raw materials from certified forestation or recovering and treating water resources to be recycled back into the production process or to nature – all of which fit perfectly with this approach. As a whole, the Circular economy and industry, seen as the economic model of the twenty-first century, is designed to conserve resources, reduce waste and minimise its impact on the planet.