To understand the concept of a circular economy, it is useful to recognise its alternative: the linear economy. Large parts of our manufacturing sector continue to operate under the principles of a linear economy where products are made, sold and then simply discarded at the end of their useful life.
Some call this the ‘take, make and dispose’ model and condemn it as a major source of the rampant consumerism that inefficiently uses finite resources and generates huge quantities of waste.
So, what’s the alternative?
The circular economy works in an entirely different way. Instead of behaving in an unsustainable manner, the circular economy calls upon us to design waste out of the making and consumption of goods.
How is this achieved? According to the Ellen Macarthur Foundation1, a key proponent of the circular economy concept, there are three core principles:
1. Eliminate waste and pollution
While it might seem that some waste is inevitable, in truth waste is a design choice. Most likely, no-one at the design stage has thought to ask, ‘what happens to this thing at the end of its life?’, much less consider how it can be maintained, reused or recycled. The goal here is simply to stop waste before it is created.
2. Circulate products and materials
Keeping materials in use means thinking about whether an item can be repaired to extend its life, remade into other goods, recycled so that materials can be recovered or returned to the earth, where appropriate, for composting. Again, product design is the essential first step in keeping products and materials in constant use.
3. Regenerate nature
By shifting the focus from extraction to regeneration, we can take active steps to improve and fortify the natural world. This is particularly important in farming, where agricultural land benefits from regenerative practices that resemble natural ecosystems and reduce our reliance on pesticides, fertilisers and finite resources in order to create workable land.
How Hand 2 Heart helps
By making healthcare scrubs using only recycled materials, Hand 2 Heart is part of the circular economy. When you buy scrubs by Hand 2 Heart, you’re also given the chance to return them at the end of their useful life for repurposing into other goods.
- Ellen Macarthur Foundation ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview (2022)