What is a Circular Economy?

What is a Circular Economy?

The traditional model for the global economy has been a linear one – to take raw natural products, make them into things and then dispose of them when you are done with little thought to the consequences of those actions.

There are so many problems with this model. The natural resources available on our planet are limited and constantly depleted by a linear model. Then there is the never-ending waste problem – with every single piece of plastic ever created still existing on the planet and too many products simply going to landfill. The loss of natural habitats as we put our planet under even more strain to produce the products that we want. Not forgetting pollution caused by manufacturing with unsafe materials and incineration of waste products.

A circular economy looks to manufacture durable products that last a long time, that can be reused, repaired, then remanufactured or recycled into something else at the end of life. The waste products that are at the end of their life are essentially used instead of natural resources. This creates a circle of use – or a circular economy.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) definition of a circular economy is:

"A circular economy is an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design. It replaces the end-of-life concept with restoration, shifts towards the use of renewable energy, eliminates the use of toxic chemicals, which impair reuse and return to the biosphere, and aims for the elimination of waste through the superior design of materials, products, systems and business models."

What does this all mean?

Our planets resources are finite. Climate change can be clearly seen. We have a global waste problem. Our actions do have consequences. By looking to reduce, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycle we can reduce our impact on our planet and live in a more sustainable, less impactful way.  

A circular economy is aiming to cut out waste. Products are designed to be reusable and built to last from safer materials. Green energy should be used to fuel this cycle to reduce any dependence on natural resources like oil. At the end of any products life, when it can no longer be repaired and reused, it is recycled into another useful product.

We started Ohelo after seeing first-hand the devastating effects of single use plastics on our oceans and ecosystems. Our reusable bottles and travel cups are designed to replace single use plastics and are built to last. We make them lead free, unlike most insulated bottle brands, to ensure our makers and their environment are not exposed to lead, which is toxic. Our products are made from stainless steel which is endlessly recyclable. Our UK distribution centre is powered by 100% renewable energy. We are also in discussions with our manufacturer to move towards using recycled stainless steel in our products to take a step closer to the circular principle.

As individuals we can also take the principles of the circular economy and use them in our everyday life. This can be choosing to reuse, learning to repair items instead of discarding them, ensuring any items truly at their end-of-life are appropriately recycled into another usable item. We can choose to reduce what we are buying, and when we do make a purchase we can look into ensuring that the item is made to last and made in a way that protects those involved in making it.

Want to learn more about the circular economy? These sources were all used as references by us, and are well worth a read:

1. https://reports.weforum.org/toward-the-circular-economy-accelerating-the-scale-up-across-global-supply-chains/from-linear-to-circular-accelerating-a-proven-concept/?doing_wp_cron=1665564872.1312749385833740234375
2. https://single-market-economy.ec.europa.eu/industry/sustainability_en
3. https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/es/sustainable-consumption-production/
4. https://sdgs.un.org/goals/goal12
5. https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy-diagram
6. https://circulareconomy.europa.eu/platform/sites/default/files/171106_white_paper_breaking_the_barriers_to_the_circular_economy_white_paper_vweb-14021.pdf
7. https://www.canada.ca/en/services/environment/conservation/sustainability/circular-economy.html
8. https://www.santander.com/en/stories/linear-and-circular-economies-what-are-they-and-whats-the-difference


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