The alternative to this is a “circular economy”, which maintains the value of products, materials and resources as long as possible and contributes to more reduction or avoidance of waste through recycling, reuse, repair, reprocessing and sharing. By focusing on “closing the loops” – i.e. total reutilisation of consumer waste – the circular economy offers a response to the finite nature of natural raw materials.
The transition to this form of economy impacts numerous areas from mobility, agriculture, land use and waste treatment to long-term economic development. A circular economy cannot be implemented by individual institutions or companies, but requires an overarching cooperation and communication process, as well as a holistic approach in designing value-added chains.
Thinking in terms of life cycles must already be part of the innovation process and product design. An economic transition to the “circular economy” model using new technologies could mean economic advantages for Europe worth around €1.8 billion by 2030. This was the conclusion made by the study “Growth Within: A circular economy vision for a competitive Europe” by McKinsey & Company and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.