In a linear economy goods are created from raw materials and sold to consumers, who use the goods then thrown them away. The materials go on to become litter, get landfilled or burned in an incinerator.
In a circular economy a product or material that a consumer is done using, still has value. Instead of abandoning the material, it is recaptured and returned to the economic system.
Baled recyclables ready for market at the Chittenden Materials Recycling Facility (MRF)
How do we get “waste” from consumers to be reused or recycled into raw material again? This is possible when manufacturers are responsible for disposal or management of their products at the end of life, rather than the consumers. When manufacturers are required by laws to plan for disposal or materials management, they have an incentive to design materials for processing and recapture of raw materials into the economy.
Recapturing raw resources can either offset expenses or become an opportunity. When manufacturers are tasked with end of life management, they are also pushed to consider that management in the design and manufacturing of a product. If multiple materials in a product are designed to easily separate at the end of use they will be more easily disassembled and recycled. Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Programs are an important piece of the foundation of a circular economy, making producer responsibility into law. EPR legislation identifies the manufacturer responsible for the management of products at the end of its life.
Stay tuned for our next post about Repair Cafes.
Environmental Protection Agency. “Fast Facts from the Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2014.”EPA,April2016.https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2016-06/documents/us_ghg_inv_fastfacts2016.pdf. Accessed March 5, 2017.
Charlotte Low is CVSWMD’s Outreach Coordinator. She is fascinated by the world of waste and works with local businesses and residents to educate on waste reduction and best waste management practices. Passionate about the natural world, of which humans are a part, she can be found gardening, beekeeping, hiking, or geeking out in nature in her spare time.