Circular economies recover resources at their highest quality and keep them in circulation for longer. Shifting to this model could alleviate concerns arising from current approaches to material use, such as resource insecurity and pollution. This POSTnote outlines what a circular economy could look like and summarises some of the benefits of, and challenges to, creating one.Jump to full report >>
Current approaches to product use are largely linear (make, use and dispose) resulting in valuable materials being wasted. A circular approach uses restoration and recovery processes to increase the lifespan of products, components and materials. This goes beyond current recycling, which has largely focused on ‘easy wins’ in waste streams, such as paper, as end-of-life circular products are designed to be an input for new industry. Circular systems incorporate a range of activities that reduce the demand for material inputs and recover/reuse materials already in the system.
However, as the cost of waste management is borne by stakeholders other than producers, there is little incentive to design for better product reuse and disassembly.
Key points in this POSTnote include:
POSTnotes are based on literature reviews and interviews with a range of stakeholders and are externally peer reviewed. POST would like to thank interviewees and peer reviewers for kindly giving up their time during the preparation of this briefing, including:
*Denotes people who acted as external reviewers of the briefing.
Authors: Jonathan Wentworth; James Burgon
The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology produces independent, balanced and accessible briefings on public policy issues related to science and technology.