Global Ideas in Focus: Circular Economy | Global Ideas | DW | 22.11.2021

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Global Ideas

Global Ideas in Focus: Circular Economy

From textiles and plastic, to electrical waste: the world is drowning in rubbish. We need to produce less and extend the lives of products. Could the concept of the circular economy show us how to live sustainably?

In nature, nothing is wasted: all material is reused in a never-ending life cycle. However, in our current 'linear' economic system, after goods have served their purpose they usually end up adding to the sprawling mountains of toxic trash damaging our environment and climate. 

The concept of the circular economy uses nature as its model and pushes for all material to be recycled and reused. Although less than 10% of the global economy operates according to this principle, the idea is gaining more support. Increasing numbers of people are implementing its practices in light of the current climate crisis. 

Circular economy: could rethinking design transform the world? 

Some argue switching to a ‘circular economy’ is crucial when it comes to climate protection and sustainability. But what would it entail, and can it work on a global scale?

 

Food and the circular economy 

Agriculture contributes a third of all global greenhouse gases. Manure from livestock and fertilizers pollute the soil, and monoculture farming and pesticides causes significant biodiversity loss. Yet more natural methods offer a different path when it comes to food production.

 

Plastic and the circular economy

Almost five billion tonnes of plastic have been thrown away since 1950. Today, huge islands of the material can be found floating in our oceans. As plastic can not easily be recycled, the search is on around the world to find alternatives that are less harmful to the environment. 

 

Textiles and the circular economy 

Around 90 million tonnes of clothing are thrown away every year - much of it barely worn. And the  textile industry has a significant impact on the climate, producing around 10% of all global greenhouse gases. It is clear we should be buying less and wearing what we have for longer. What role can design play in extending the lives of our garments?

 

Electronics and the circular economy  

Products like computers, refrigerators and smartphones have become ubiquitous features of everyday modern life. Yet once they have served our purposes, the valuable raw materials used in them are rarely reused. Just 20% of e-waste is recycled globally. How can we find ways to increase 'e-recycling'? 

 

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