What is a circular economy?
There's nothing new about the idea of a circular approach. Anyone who thinks about it just a bit longer, can understand that a lot of earth's resources are finite. They become more scarce every day and at one point they will be gone. Where the planet as a total ecosystem circulate its resources, unfortunately mankind in its current economic model is focused on profit only with depletion as a cost.
What about everything we already 'recycle'?
Produced by our planet, resources transform into an 'appearance'. Like a tree with leaves. Once fallen, leaves transform subsequenty into food for that tree. Should the tree die, the entire tree becomes food for future trees. There's no loss of resources. There's no 'cost' for the circle of life. No quality is lost. No toxic ingredients are added that have no place in the ecosystem.
The legitimacy of referring to 'recycling' in any economy should only be valid if the same criteria are met.
Independent of the 'appearance' after any use resources must be:
The original quantity
The original quality
Free from added toxicity.
Applying these criteria to the current version of 'recycling' non of the criteria are met. An 'appearance' can indeed be reused as resource, but almost always quantity and quality are reduced. Most 'appearances' are produced by added toxicity that has no place in the original cycle and is impossible to separate after use.
This approach of 'recycling' has no relation with 'circular' and should be referred to as 'extending the linear appearance'.
It's not about 'good' or 'bad'. It's about the difference!
Recognizing true circularity isn't about labelling 'good' or 'bad'. The vast majority of 'appearances' in our current economic system are linear. No surprise their that most options to reuse also are linear. In stead of 'recycling' we should refer to this level of reuse as 'downcycling': a certain level of reuse is indeed possible, but the proces does not meet the circular criteria.
What is the importance of identifying the difference?
Preserving the linear 'appearance' is mostly what it's al about in the current 'circular' approach.
Extending durability by repair and refurbishment.
Resource reduction by sharing: less 'appearances' used by more people.
Resource reduction by downcylcing: reuse with reduction of quality and quantity and adding of virgin resources.
All very important steps to extend the use of linear applied resources for as long as possible. Dispite all good intentions their's a limit to this 'extending' of linear use. Constant reducing the quality with each 'downcycle' results by definition in a non-usable quality. As a result of the constant need for virgin resources in this approach the depletion of earth's finite resources is not stopped at all but merely temporarily postponed. Mirrored to a timescale of let's say 50 years, down cycling will have a positive impact. With improved technology perhaps we can even postpone 'judgment day' for a 100 years. But mirrored to a circular timescale: the duration of mankind as a species, even a 100 years is insignificant.
Therefor, simultaneously with all positive effort on the 'extension of linear', a start must be made towards the development of true circular solutions. The intentional and deliberate deployment of earth's resources in a way that meets all circular criteria and will preserve all resources for the duration of mankind as a spieces.
Circular (public) procurement faciltates the transition from linear to circular
Submerged in the linear economy the challenge is there to initiate the transition towards circularity trough circular procurement.
The criteria in tenders must inspire to meet all circular criteria and must reward those who are willing and able to meet the criteria the closest. The market will be stimulated to develop circular products and processes. The pioniers will see their efforts and investment rewarded. Their products and solutions are chosen above those of their usual competetors who have not taken steps towards a more circular approach.
It's essential to realize that '100%' circular is for now almost impossible and that the goal is to maximize circularity. Even more important is the focus on 'the human factor' next to 'resources'. Social fairness is what we should look at. How are all people treated, at any time in the entire proces, during the creation of any 'appearance'. The assessment starts form the extraction of resources up to the reentry on resource level after use. Any violation of international human rights: child labor, exploitation, exposure to hazardous compounds, corruption etc. wil not meet the circular criteria. In the definition of circularity it is said:
...all actions regarding resources and people within a circular economy are intentional restorable to an earlier or original state...
People are exposed to toxic compounds. Are being exploited for years of forced to work in dangerous and inhuman circumstances. Children are being forced to work at a very young age and are denied access to education. These are just a few examples. Non of these circumstances are 'restorable' to an earlier state. The years stolen of a child can not be 'restored'. Diseases as a result of exposure to toxins are not 'restorable'.
Circular procurement is therefore also social fair procurement. This goes way beyond just selecting something with a 'green' logo. It's about all people in the entire process and supply chain: pre consumer (before use), during use and post consumer (after use).
Rendemint developed a method for true circular procurement where all aspects regarding resources and people are equally met through clear criteria and an objective result applicable to any process, product and market (without complex calculations).