"Eco Economy" evolution towards "Future Economy

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

Ellen MacArthur Foundation

About
Our mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation was established in 2010 with the aim of accelerating the transition to the circular economy. Since its creation the charity has emerged as a global thought leader, establishing the circular economy on the agenda of decision makers across business, government and academia. With the support of its Core Philanthropic Partners SUN, MAVA and People’s Postcode Lottery and Knowledge Partners Arup, IDEO, McKinsey & Company and SYSTEMIQ, the Foundation’s work focuses on five interlinking areas

What is a circular economy?

Looking beyond the current “take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.

Our mission is to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by Ellen MacArthur Foundation

The Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is a generic term for an economy which features two distinct types of material flow, organic and inorganic.

Organic materials can re-enter the ecosystem safely without contamination and inorganic materials are recycled as high-quality resources that do not re-enter the ecosystem, but are designed to be re-purposed with the minimal use of energy.

The Circular Economy encompasses processes beyond the simple production and consumption of goods, to include a move away from fossil fuel dependency to the use of renewable energy

The concept of a circular economy

In a circular economy, economic activity builds and rebuilds overall system health. The concept recognises the importance of the economy needing to work effectively at all scales – for large and small businesses, for organisations and individuals, globally and locally.

Transitioning to a circular economy does not only amount to adjustments aimed at reducing the negative impacts of the linear economy. Rather, it represents a systemic shift that builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits.

The model distinguishes between technical and biological cycles. Consumption happens only in biological cycles, where food and biologically-based materials (such as cotton or wood) are designed to feed back into the system through processes like composting and anaerobic digestion. These cycles regenerate living systems, such as soil, which provide renewable resources for the economy. Technical cycles recover and restore products, components, and materials through strategies like reuse, repair, remanufacture or (in the last resort) recycling.

The notion of circularity has deep historical and philosophical origins. The idea of feedback, of cycles in real-world systems, is ancient and has echoes in various schools of philosophy. It enjoyed a revival in industrialised countries after World War II when the advent of computer-based studies of non-linear systems unambiguously revealed the complex, interrelated, and therefore unpredictable nature of the world we live in – more akin to a metabolism than a machine. With current advances, digital technology has the power to support the transition to a circular economy by radically increasing virtualisation, de-materialisation, transparency, and feedback-driven intelligence.

The circular economy model synthesises several major schools of thought. They include the functional service economy (performance economy) of Walter Stahel; the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy of William McDonough and Michael Braungart; biomimicry as articulated by Janine Benyus; the industrial ecology of Reid Lifset and Thomas Graedel; natural capitalism by Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken; and the blue economy systems approach described by Gunter Pauli.

 

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