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Circular Economy and Zero Waste: A Complementary Pair

Poster about planet on the power pole
Zero waste circular economy can be a game-changer to keep the planet under 1.5°C of global warming

Source: Photo Boards [8]

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The increasing level of public awareness regarding environmental problems has had an impact on many aspects. One of which is the change in lifestyle, where in the last few years “Zero waste lifestyle” has seen an increase in trend among the community [1].

Zero-waste lifestyle is an effort made to reduce waste by involving Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Rot (5R). These choices influence all environmental areas by preventing resource extraction, reducing the amount of materials sent to the landfill or incinerator, and reducing pollution from producing, transporting, or disposing of materials [2].

In order for this lifestyle to run optimally, it requires a supportive environment, one of which is the implementation of the circular economy. Circular economy is an economic approach that promotes sustainability by keeping resources in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value, and regenerating products and materials [3].

Both are interrelated and build a symbiotic mutualism relationship, meaning that both sides benefit from the other. So, how can the two be a mutually beneficial partner?

Circular economy creates an environmentally friendly production climate

Green bag vandalised
The Circularity Gap Report 2019 finds that the global economy is only 9% circular

Source: Morning Brew [9]

The circular economy practice focuses on closed cycles that prioritize product resilience and reducing waste by recycling, repairing, and reusing, resulting in a more environmentally friendly production.

Another advantage of the circular economy is the reduction of production waste. This is done by maximizing all available raw materials and at the same time reducing the environmental impacts from natural resource extraction. For example, through its Circular Economy Action Plan, the European Commission has estimated that it will benefit from reducing carbon emissions by 450 million tonnes by 2030 [4].

The implementation of the circular economy also affects land fertility by applying regenerative agriculture practices such as managed grazing and regenerative cropland which results in the improvement of soil health. Employing regenerative agricultural practices on a 5,000-acre mixed arable and livestock farm in North Dakota led to its soil infiltration rate increasing by 30% (while also at least tripling carbon sequestration rates per acre and increasing yields by 20%) [5].


Zero-waste lifestyle as a step towards a healthier environment

Hand holding a plants
Zero waste conserves resources and minimizes pollution

Source: Noah Buscher [10]

From using tote bags and bamboo straws to reducing single-use plastic to making eco-bricks from plastic waste, the zero waste lifestyle trend can also be a solution to the current waste problem.

One waste that dominates our household is food waste. By weight, 75 to 80 percent of all household trash is organic matter that can be composted and turned into fertilizer for soil [6]. The implementation of zero waste lifestyle would allow us to process the waste into compost.

Zero-waste lifestyle also encourages us to recycle the waste we produce. By recycling, we can keep waste out of landfills and incinerators and provide manufacturers with recycled materials to make new goods [7].

Circular economy and zero waste lifestyle may be promising solutions to our waste problem, but they won’t do much good if we don’t change our consumerist ways and mindset. That being said, the first step in our sustainability journey is to change how we perceive things, from simple objects to purchase to investments, and everything else can follow.


Editor: Christopher Riandy

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