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Circular economy definition

Circular economy definition

Defining the Circular Economy: A Sustainable Approach

Firstly, as our current linear economic model reaches its limits, there is an urgent need to prioritize resource efficiency and adapt our economic systems accordingly. At this point, the response to this challenge is the circular economy definition. In a word, it revolves around the idea of maximizing the lifespan of products and resources through recovery, reuse, repair, remanufacturing, and recycling. In general, this approach not only reduces our dependence on primary resources. But also contributes to a significant reduction in carbon emissions and the preservation of natural ecosystems.

In the light of recent years, the circular economy concept has become a fundamental component of corporate strategies for sustainable development. As well as, a cornerstone of public policies and international directives. Consequently, growing interest in this approach underscores its importance in shaping a more environmentally responsible and economically viable future.

Origins of the Circular Economy Definition

Before, the concept of the circular economy has its roots in the 1970s. Certainly,  when it emerged in the context of environmental studies on industrial ecology. In fact, it gained momentum following the publication of the influential Club of Rome report, “The Limits to Growth,” in 1972.
Moreover, renewed attention was brought to this concept by the Cradle-to-Cradle (C2C) Movement and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation in the early 2000s and 2010s. Notably, in January 2012, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation released a report titled “Towards the Circular Economy: Economic and Business Rationale for an Accelerated Transition,”. Also developed in collaboration with McKinsey & Company. On the whole, groundbreaking report was the first to explore the economic and business opportunities associated with transitioning to a circular model.

Finaly, Cradle-to-Cradle concept was conceived by German chemist Michael Braungart and American architect William McDonough. Indeed, they was introduced in their 2002 book, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things.” In order to clarify their visionary model. For the purpose to transform the current industrial paradigm of “take, make, and waste”. And into a sustainable system that generates goods and services with ecological, social, and economic value. 

Two Approaches to the Circular Economy Definition

Then, there are various interpretations of the circular economy concept, but two distinct approaches can be identified:

On one hand:

  • Closed-Loop: This approach involves a recycling process in which a product is recycled back into itself or a similar product without significant degradation or waste. For instance, Tarkett has implemented its ReStart program. In other words, which entails collecting used floors and repurposing them to create new ones, preventing landfill disposal.

On the other hand:

  • Open Loop: In the open-loop approach, the input to the recycling process is transformed into a new raw material that can be utilized in another manufacturing process. For example, LanzaTech, a biotech company based in the United States. LanzaTech specializes in recycling carbon pollution from industrial emissions to create everyday products. Such as aviation fuel and PET packaging.

In addition to these industry initiatives, there are collaborative programs like The Future Of Waste. In partnership with a B2B company in the agri-food sector, Diana of the Symrise group. Generally, these programs focus on waste recovery, specifically targeting the repurposing of fruit and vegetable waste. The challenge is to explore innovative ways to utilize these resources within the framework of a circular economy. Significantly, aiming for a positive impact that goes beyond waste reduction.

At the end, by redefining our economic model through the circular economy concept, we are poised to create a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future.

Circular economy definition - Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Circular economy definition - Ellen Macarthur Foundation


William McDonough : Cradle-to-Cradle concept

Others definitions

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