Circular Economy 101: What Is It and How You Can Participate

By: Julie Hall, Free Geek Toronto volunteer

“In our current economy, we take materials from the Earth, make products from them, and eventually throw them away as waste – the process is linear. In a circular economy, by contrast, we stop waste being produced in the first place.” –  Ellen Macarthur Foundation

Traditionally, our economy has followed a take-make-waste approach to making goods.  We take resources, make products, and then discard. 

A circular economy is founded on the premise that resources are finite. Within a circular economy, people intentionally design products with the aim to eliminate waste. This could be through reusing or recycling materials from spent products, such as turning used plastic into pellets to create new products. It could also be through using biodegradable materials, such as using take-out containers made of compostable cornstarch.

A circular economy also takes a systems approach by integrating any used resources back into production. For example, you can use rainwater to hydrate your vegetable garden, consume the vegetables, and then you can use the resulting food scraps as compost for the next season. With this vegetable garden, all resources are fed back into the economy.

Circular economy can apply to any of the products we touch on a day-to-day basis, from the food on our tables, to the clothes in our closet, as well as the electronic products we use.

There are many initiatives and organisations globally to promote a circular economy, such as the Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE). Locally, the City of Toronto has developed the Circular Economy Procurement Implementation Plan and Framework. With an annual purchasing amount of 2+ billion, the City of Toronto can help drive change through buying from suppliers espousing circular economy principles. This framework’s scope includes procurement of food and catering; waste management; information and technology; textiles and clothing; construction and engineering.

You can also find out about more GTA based organisations that are promoting a circular economy, including Free Geek Toronto!

Want to be part of the circular economy? You can learn more about volunteering with Free Geek Toronto, find affordable refurbished products here, or donate used electronics.