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Principles of a circular economy

Traditionally, our economy has been thought of as "linear"; raw materials are manufactured into products, used by consumers, and then thrown away once they are no longer useful. By reusing and recycling, however, we not only reduce our usage of raw materials, but also recoup much of their financial value in the long term. A circular economy aims to close the loop by recycling all products and minimising new resources needed.

Creating a circular economy requires significant input at the design stage as well as encouraging reuse and recycling amongst consumers. Some key requirements of a circular economy according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency are:

  • Businesses integrate with each other to take advantage of each other’s waste products and energy.
  • When creating a new product, decisions are made about how to use the by-products in creating other materials, chemicals or products.
  • Energy comes from renewable sources; raw materials are often biological in nature.
  • Greater emphasis is placed on leasing and joint-ownership of products, so that they are used more often.
  • Products are designed to last longer, be more efficient, and be simple to recycle.
  • Infrastructure is in place so that products can be repaired, upgraded, and resold rather than recycled immediately.

Read more at the website of the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.


A large pile of used plastic yoghurt pots to be recycled. Photo.