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Circular Economy: Integrating 'Life' into Businesses Responsible for 'Tomorrow'

28/03/2014 11:12 GMT | Updated 28/05/2014 10:59 BST

In a capitalistic economy, claiming to be 'exclusive' may be a privilege. But, in a world which is fast losing out on its metals, minerals, water and clean air, it smacks of colossal snobbishness. Predicaments of an unsustainable future are staring at the businesses in the face. Use and throw has slowly turned into simply throw with shelf lives of products declining with innovation in technology. All this 'cutting-edge' and 'custom made' has come to a point of no return.

Unless there is a drastic change in ideology that follows integrated approach, future can take us on a time travel. Only, this time we will enter dark ages; never to return.

The current economy with linear production where only products are built to be discarded at the end seems to be a game where everyone is out to lose.

A pair of word 'circular economy' seems to be the next biggest mantra. And, chant it, you must; for your own good and survival. For, this talks of an exclusive economy, which is capable of designing 'out' the waste. In a broader sense, circular economy is much beyond a simplistic one-line definition.

Though at the outset it looks like a clear contradiction and fitting reply to economy of accumulation; the new model of businesses is much more than that. The kind of world that capitalism has created is for all to see. Excesses of a consumption-based economic system --from burgeoning landfills, to rising levels of obesity; cronies of capitalism refuse to see what lies ahead of them. Because, in simple words, there is not much of a tomorrow left there.

In the world that's headed towards wider gulf between the rich and poor, democratic and autocratic nations -- circular economy seems to be the new leveler, if adopted by nations. It is not a new revolution that will take the world by storm. In fact, given that the capitalistic forces are leading the chains of excesses, it can never be, without participation from empowered people of every nation. This almost Zen-like 'here and now' formulation of hard economic realities seems very distant to the prevailing sensibilities which promote excesses.

Will the governments, corporations, and individuals would embrace a new set of beliefs so divergent from business as usual? Though it is tough to say whether the solidarity will form at that level, there sure is some strength for circular economy from within the circles of propagators. Fortunately for it, this 'new religion' has strong voices with those within government set ups too to talk about its need and feasibility.

Circular economy does not ask you to drop everything you did before. Neither does it accept just a bit of trimming here and there, to make it seem like an 'honest attempt'. It is bringing forth a situation where we need to think of economy as a large circle. As opposed to a linear system that we have now where we only create stuff to turn it into waste, eventually; the circular economy is promisingly different. Here, 'net waste' does not figure that can harm the biosphere. Sounds fascinating, isn't it?

Now, get this. In circular economy, goods don't get produced for exclusivity. They get produced for a longer shelf life, and are readily reusable and recyclable when they reach the "end" of their operating life. Instead of unidirectional value chains, industry has to imagine being part of a circular value chain where they are responsible and not just profit-oriented. So, whatever goes around DOES come around!

Ideologically, this ain't a new thought. Actually in a world where limited resources had to be shared, fair and just were the key words that operated in the minds of native economists of those days. Barter system where fair and just market existed simply based on needs and not on the 'money' part, ecology was taken care of.

The new mantra of circular economy seems to have caught up well. Mckinsey and Company put out the findings of a study of which the company was a partner. This study revealed that the material waste in Europe can come down significantly by applying the principles of this new model of economy.

Circular economy factors in flexibility in production processes. In fact, flexibility is the prime aspect that creates the base for manufacturing units to change and adapt to changes in the business environments in a more economic manner than what they already do.

When circular economy gains more momentum, the trinity would have to be redefined for the benefit of humankind. The Sun, the wind, and the water have to play god with generous amounts of biomass playing their exclusive and collective roles.

What is needed here is the shift to systemic thinking, which has to begin right at the time when new projects are being planned at government and private level. In a circular world, everything is connected and reenters the atmosphere at the end of its use, unlike the linear model now.

So, careful planning and judicious use of resources are a must for this concept to be integrated.

With the idea still gaining the wind beneath its wings, it's a hard game. But, in a world hopeful of change, measuring Gross Circular Product may soon be a dream come true for the betterment of the earth.