Perspectives

Being Circular in a Linear World

April 10 / 2019

By Katie Ringhand

As the Sustainable Development Goals show, there are many areas in our world that are unsustainable. We currently are living in a mostly linear economy, where raw materials are put directly into production, which leads to product use and direct waste. The linear-ness of this model shows that there is a start and end of every product. But where do we go with all this waste? Currently, the waste is going directly into landfills, polluting our land and water natural resources. In addition, much of the plastic waste is going directly into our oceans, forming several large garbage patches. As the plastic breaks down in the oceans, our sea creatures are consuming it and dying.

Throughout the years, our society has recognized the large waste that we are producing, and several recycling programs have been developed in order to reuse products. While this is a step in the right direction to combat plastic pollution and waste, many of the products in our recycling bins are actually not recycled and end up in landfills and our oceans. In addition, plastic products, for the most part, can only be recycled one time in order to maintain quality. Tin and glass, however, are 100% recyclable and have indefinite lives.

A circular economy takes the raw inputs into production, the products are consumed and then recycled back to produce new things along with additional raw inputs as needed. This model is much more sustainable because it produces far less waste and reuses products into future production. For example, in a linear economy, yogurt would be produced in plastic containers that are used one time and then thrown away, creating waste. In a circular economy, though, the yogurt would be produced in glass containers that can be recycled and reused in the future.

In order to sustain our world for years to come, we MUST make changes to have a more circular society, consuming products that are 100% recyclable or compostable.

 

Easy changes you can make today:

  • Consume fewer animal products; this doesn’t mean you must become vegan but be more intentional with what animal products you are consuming. – 80% of US farmland is used to grow feed for animals and they produce methane gas, which is polluting our environment
  • Reduce your plastic waste by opting for reusable items – bags, water bottles, straws, etc.
  • Start a compost bin or research your city’s compost system
  • Purchase food products in glass or tin, rather than plastic because they are 100% recyclable

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