“Will you take the trash out, honey?” is a daily routine for many of us. Perhaps even more so now that we are spending more time indoors. We have gotten used to throwing things away, and often very good things. We do not want to be seen in old clothes, nor eat the wrinkled tomato that’s in the fridge, and it’s so much easier to throw away that old washing machine than to repair it.

In all fairness, we are exposed to so many adverts making a living out of reminding us that we need the latest and the best that it’s easy to feel inferior if we do not! But, the world and us (only perhaps a bit slower) are changing the outlook from a linear to a circular economy.

So, what’s all the fuss? A linear economy means that we get raw materials, produce things, consumers purchase them, use them and when they are done with them, they get thrown away. Simple. Look at it like a line; it has a beginning and an end.

But we all know that resources are finite, we all know how polluted the world is getting, and having a look around us, even our landfills are needing more space. 

The circular economy is a concept where we look at the manufacture, buy, use, throw away cycle differently. Look at it more like a circle. We get raw materials, produce things (keeping in mind the concepts of circular economy), people purchase them, use them and when they are done with them, they become raw materials for the same or another industry.

Do we really want to go back to the way things were?

In this way, waste is reduced significantly. Recently, I saw a very good example of this in action. Pencils and business cards made from recycled clothing material. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure (...no gender bias intended!).

“Interesting!”, one may say, “but where do I fit in?” Each one of us, whether consumers, suppliers or policymakers, has a very important role to play. And just like in many other things, if we underestimate the value of many people working together to reach an aim, we end up not reaching it at all.

As consumers, the way we spend our money indicates our choices. Our choices trigger the demand for products, so if we change our demands, then businesses follow. 

As suppliers, starting to put in practice some of the basic principles of the circular economy, we will bit by bit make a difference.

It is not simply a nice-to-do thing. We, the people who are in the industry, owe it to society which is ensuring our livelihood. As policymakers, every inch you move in the direction of encouraging a circular economy and discouraging a linear economy impacts society’s well-being.

We are at an important crossroad. Everything is on the pause button for now, but there will come a day when our economy will start rising from the ashes.

It’s time for us to wake up and smell the coffee. Let’s work together to change the way we used to do business. 

As we grind to a halt, the earth is breathing fresh air.  Do we really want to go back to the way things were, when we can change?

As a society, we really need to work well together. Money can blind us, yes that is understood, but moving away from linear to circular should not be a hit at the bottom line, but rather a shift in mindset and the introduction of new supplies which can be used and re-used.

Will we even see the day when the question is, “have we taken out the trash this week honey?”

Corinne Fenech is management PhD researcher, University of Glasgow

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