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Linear Economy vs Circular Economy - A Short Description

It's refuse collection day, and you need to make sure that your full Wheelie Bin is at your gate and ready for collection. That being done, you get on with your day. You get home in the evening and wheel the empty bin back into the yard not giving it another thought, until next week.

Did you know, that approximately 90% of waste generated in SA is landfilled? Although 65% of waste generated in SA is recyclable, only 10% is being recycled annually, and less than 5% of South Africans separate their waste at household level.

For plastic alone, over 1 million tons are thrown away in South Africa each year, even though approximately 88% of the energy is saved when plastic is made from plastic rather than from the raw materials of gas and oil. Source: DEA (2012) (National Waste Information Baseline Report)

So with this in mind, why do we still perpetuate a throw-away society, focusing on producing, consuming and then discarding?  This puts enormous strain on our environment as goods that have been produced, and have reached the end of their useful life span, ends up in a bin. This is referred to as the ‘linear economy’. A system which is unsustainable economically and environmentally.

An alternative to this is the ‘circular economy’, which encourages businesses to create products and systems in which materials are reused, recycled or re-manufactured. Each product at end-of-life becomes a new resource rather than merely being discarded, as they are re-purposed and can be used again and again in a circular goods cycle.

But there are further macroeconomic pressures that increase the urgency of a circular economy, and these include commodity risks in supply chains, an increase in zero-waste regulations, increasing populations, and rising commodity prices which threatens continuity of operations and margins. As a business, we are not exempt from these pressures and innovative re-use strategies are critical to sustainability.