Topic 2 What about circularity?

As viewed in Module 1, circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. This means materials constantly flow around a “closed loop” system, rather than being used once and then discarded. In the case of plastic, this means simultaneously keeping the value of plastics in the economy, without leakage into the natural environment.

The challenge is to keep matters or products and here plastic in the economy as long as feasibly possible. This includes:

  • reducing the need for mining and production of virgin materials;
  • designing products with long lifetimes;
  • avoiding single-use plastics unless where necessary and there are no viable alternatives;
  • adopting business models and social solutions that enable the reuse, repair and product sharing options;
  • setting up effective and efficient waste collection systems;
  • recycling materials to high quality grades.

The video below shows the vision that circular economy has about plastics. It explains the current problems that plastics represent and the potential danger that comes from overuse of it. Listen carefully to the 6 key points developed in this video.

Source: Akenji, L., Bengtsson, M., Kato, M., Hengesbaugh, M., Hotta, Y., Aoki-Suzuki, C., Gamaralalage, P.J.D. & Liu, C. (2019).

In short here are the 5 key points of how CE envisions a better future:

  1. Elimination of unnecessary plastic packaging through, redesign, innovative delivery models;
  2. Application of reuse models where relevant, reducing the need for single-use packaging, and relying on reuse models;
  3. All plastic packaging used have to be designed to be 100% reusable, recyclable, or compostable;
  4. Use of plastic is fully decoupled from the consumption of finite resources;
  5. All plastic packaging is free from hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and the right of all people involved are respected.

This requires cooperation of actors all along the circular chain.

Let’s take for example the key point 4 “All plastic packaging is effectively reused, recycled or composted in practice”:

  • Informing and communicating with people about the different packaging;
  • They have to take the packaging back at the right place after use, so that it either enters to the reuse process, or to the recycling or composting;
  • Facilities ready to accommodate the process of recycling/composting or to treat the matireal for reuse.

Or key point 6 “All plastic packaging is free from hazardous chemicals, and the health, safety, and the right of all people involved are respected”. This requires cooperation of:

  • Health evaluators of new material and chemicals;
  • Regulators giving uses restriction of chemicals;
  • Designers of packaging, producers of polymers used in packaging;
  • Logistics to improve and insure conservation condition;
  • User that can also adapt to conservation condition.

Each actor, at his level has to think according to “R” principles. The first principle to take into account being the one at the top of this pyramid, then if not possible the second, etc.

Go back to Module 1 for more details if needed.

Source: Ecores (2021) – Scheme based on waste hierarchy of the European Waste Framework Directive.