This is a fantastic question, and one whose answer needs to be shouted from the mountaintops if the world is to move forward in a sustainable, intelligent manner. Let’s begin a little history on the origins of the term, ”circular economy”.
While the term “circular economy” started finding its way into the conversations of scientists, engineers and economists in the 1970s, it only started gaining traction is South Africa in recent years. So, it is no wonder why it is being seen as a “new” buzzword to hit the local IT industry.
Circular vs. Linear
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, “A circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (where we make, use, and dispose of things) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.”
In a nutshell, the circular economy is about is about the three Rs of recycling – Reducing; Reusing; Recycling – just scaled up to the country level and adopted across the board by all industries.
The aim is so that everything we as a society produce can be dismantled once those “things” reach End-of-Life, and 100% of the resulting recycled materials used to create the next wave of products.
Currently we consume the goods our societies produce in a linear manner; we make, use and throw away, creating landfills in the process where most of our goods end up.
However, in the circular economy model, recycling can produce sustainable results because it takes into consideration the long term environmental and economic impact of a products life-cycle. This includes the process taken when manufacturing a computer, distributing and selling it and finally repurposing it.
This means that there would need to be regulations put in place for manufacturers, distributors and consumers to follow that are in line with what the circular economy is trying to achieve.
For example, manufactures would need to ensure that the parts they use when making a laptop are can be used after the laptop has reached its end of life. Not particularly reused in another laptop but as a part of some other electronic equipment.
Distributors would need to ensure that they are purchasing from certified buyers and that recycling is a part of their overall business strategy.
Considering that it takes 240 kgs of fossil fuel, 22kgs of chemicals, and 1.5 tons of water to manufacture just one computer, imagine the difference that recycling on a global scale will make in terms of conserving – if not saving outright – the planet’s strained resources.
[Image – Commons]