An Introduction

by Ellen MarArthur, competition sailor turned eco-economics campaigner & educator

The Circular Economy Concept - Article

glass recyclers in BoshanThe Circular Economy approach to resource-use efficiency integrates cleaner production and industrial ecology in a broader system encompassing industrial firms, networks or chains of firms, eco-industrial parks, and regional infrastructure to support resource optimization. State owned and private enterprises, government and private infrastructure, and consumers all have a role in achieving the CE. The three basic levels of action are:

    • At the individual firm level, managers must seek much higher efficiency through the three Rs of CP, reduce consumption of resources and emission of pollutants and waste, reuse resources, and recycle by-products. (Sustainable product and process design is important in German and Japanese recycling economy plans but is just emerging as a component of the Chinese CE concept.)
    • The second level is to reuse and recycle resources within industrial parks and clustered or chained industries, so that resources will circulate fully in the local production system. (The Chinese use the term “eco-chains” for by-product exchanges.) 

    • The third level is to integrate different production and consumption systems in a region so the resources circulate among industries and urban systems. This level requires development of municipal or regional by-product collection, storage, processing, and distribution systems.

    Efforts at all three levels include development of resource recovery and cleaner production enterprises and public facilities to support realization of the CE concept. This adds a strong economic development dimension through investment in new ventures and job creation. So the CE opens opportunities for both domestic and foreign enterprises.

    A logical extension of the third regional level of action would be integrating management of flows among urban, suburban, and rural resource recovery systems. An example would be bio-refineries utilizing discarded biomass from rural and urban sources. Such refineries would operate with a range of technologies for converting these resources into bio-energy, bio-fuel, and bio-materials. 

    From the paper "China seeks to develop a "Circular Economy" (CE)

    Plugging the Leaky Bucket

    of globalized local economies

    a great animation at the beginning of this lecture by Rob Hopkins on Transition Town Totnes

    & it's all about creating new economies ...