The Circular Economy Bill was passed by the Cabinet earlier this summer. The most popular headline was about a prospective increase in the price of a takeaway coffee to discourage and minimise wasteful waste from cups, whether compostable or recyclable.
The circular economy is a broad goal that encompasses much more than single-use coffee cups.
It is not a novel concept. The European Commission recognised it as a solution to the difficulties caused by climate change as early as 2008. It has an impact on legislation like the European Union Waste Framework Directive and efforts to eliminate landfills.
The circular economy is best understood as a solution to address faults in the linear economic model that has dominated during the postwar period, and is fueled by easy credit and worldwide access to resources, particularly relatively inexpensive fossil fuels. It’s a conveyor belt: you make it, use it, and then throw it away.
Climate change, rivalry for scarce resource security, and an economic system plagued by boom and bust are all negative outcomes of this model that the circular economy mitigates.
Climate change is largely acknowledged as a fact. The most recent evidence of the linear model’s intrinsic instability was the 2008 financial meltdown, and the pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities in its reliance on global supply systems.
Metals that are required for life
It is useful to look at European manufacturing’s demand for a reliable supply of vital metals to understand how the circular economy works and might address these challenges.
Metals with names that are as difficult to spell as they are to locate are required by the intricate circuits that support the digital world. They’re rare, expensive, and only a few of them are found in substantial quantities throughout Europe.
The only option to lessen Europe’s reliance on these metals from outside sources is to retain them in Europe once they arrive – either as raw materials or as components in commodities made elsewhere.
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This entails extending the life of metal-containing products as much as feasible through maintenance and repair, and then extracting the metal once the product has reached the end of its useful life. Achieving this on a large scale necessitates changes in both product design and business methods.
This is the circular economy’s difficult task. It also provides opportunities for innovation, investment, and well-paid employment.