POSITIVE NEWS The circular economy: what is it, why is it important and how can we embrace it?
Martin Wright, chair of Positive News and champion of circular economics, talks to us about the virtues of going round in circles
Since the smut-belching days of the Industrial Revolution humanity has embraced a linear model of economics, which involves extracting resources from Earth, making things from them and dumping those things when they become surplus to requirements.
This model has some merit in that it has generated jobs and lifted many people’s living standards, but it has also created the climate crisis, driven biodiversity loss and left behind mountains of waste. As a result, a growing number of people – from economists to entrepreneurs – now deem the linear model unfit for purpose.
Enter the principle of circular economics, which twists the planet trashing linear model into a loop by eliminating rubbish entirely or treating it as a resource.
Circularity was a fringe subject a decade ago, but no longer. The EU recently launched its Circular Economic Action Plan to tackle waste, while pioneering brands such as Nike, Unilever and Stella McCartney have also embraced the principles of circularity.
But it is agile startups that are developing perhaps the most innovative products, which are recognised at the annual Green Alley Award, Europe’s first competition for circular startups. Martin Wright, chair of Positive News and a judge for the Green Alley Award, believes that turning trash into treasure is a matter of human survival.
“We can’t continue sucking up finite resources and spewing out waste and expect to have an environment in which we can thrive,” he says. “We are running out of resources, and running out of ways to dispose of waste which doesn’t cause problems. The climate emergency is merely the most dramatic example of the impact of an excessively linear, take-make-waste economy.”
Main image: Green Alley Award