Circular Economy: Definition, Players and Principles

How to define the circular economy? Who are the main actors and characteristics? What opportunities in the circular economy?

Synonymous with sustainable development, the concept of the circular economy is built around 7 fundamental pillars. Let’s see the main principles of this economy of the future.

Circular economy, United Nations definition: “The circular economy is a system of production, exchange and sharing allowing social progress, the preservation of natural capital and economic development as defined by the Brundtland commission *. ”

* The United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development has published a book in 1987: “Our common future”.

In reality, it is not always easy to delimit precisely this global concept. So the definition of the circular economy is part of a systemic approach, this is what we will discover in this article.

Circular economy: Who are the main players?

The circular economy is only possible if different parties agree to play the game.

ADEME: A key player.

In France, the Agence de l’Environnement et de la Maîtrise de l’Energie ( ADEME ) is a public partner with expertise and advice for communities, businesses and the general public in the areas of:

  • of the environment,
  • Energy,
  • of sustainable development.

Through its regional offices, ADEME offers funding for a large number of eco-responsible projects: click to see the list of current calls for projects.

ADEME will, therefore, be the preferred contact for companies in the circular economy.

Companies, pillars of eco-responsible commitment.

No one today can ignore the harmful consequences of mass production and consumption on the environment.

Some companies suffer from a degraded environmental image due to their too low ecological commitment, which constitutes a risk for their sustainability.

However, all companies can potentially make their environmental impact positive by implementing the principles of the circular economy.

The empowerment of entrepreneurial actors is an essential step in this process.

Incentive legislation.

The circular economy was the subject of important law, namely the law relating to the energy transition for green growth of August 18, 2015.

The latter imposes restrictions on certain practices:

  • ban on plastic bags,
  • fight against food waste,
  • penalization of planned obsolescence.

Waste management is one of the central points of the law, through prevention objectives and good practices by 2025:

  • 10% reduction in household waste,
  • 65% recycling rate for non-hazardous waste,
  • 50% reduction in the volume of waste landfilled.

Consumers, the strong link in the chain.

It is largely due to the awareness of consumers that the various advances in the circular economy have taken place. Consumers become consumer actors: they change into influencers who blow industrialists the choices of sustainable production.

They are also an important lever for innovation and eco-responsible projects, for example through crowdfunding campaigns.

The European Union: an essential financier.

The European Commission regularly launches calls for projects around themes such as energy efficiency, the circular economy and waste management. The key is significant funding for European companies that organize themselves in consortia.

Circular economy: The main principles.

The principles of the circular economy are simple but very broad. It focuses on the plurality of actions and their interdependencies.

The circular economy is thus based on a virtuous circle composed of 7 fundamental pillars:

circular economy scheme

1. A sustainable supply of raw materials.

The notion of sustainability takes into account the ecological impact of the management of resources linked to the production of raw materials, but also the working conditions of workers.

2. Eco-design of consumer goods.

It is a design based on eco-responsible principles, including the control of resources and waste.

Integrating an eco-design process into your production system can also allow you to improve your profitability.

3. A territorial and industrial commitment to ecology.

Local and industrial policies must be harmonized to build lasting economic fabric in a given territory.

4. An economy of functionality.

It is about selling the use of the good or service, not the good or service itself. This principle allows:

  • Reduced need for resources,
  • The pooling of goods and services.

It is actually the basis of a collaborative economy.

5. Responsible consumption.

It is a question here of opting for purchasing behaviour based on reasoned consumption.

Buy less but better and pay attention to the source and production methods (carbon footprint, fair trade, working conditions, organic farming, etc.).

6. An extension of the duration of use.

It involves opting for the reuse, repair and reuse of objects.

For example, today there are more and more Repair’cafés and other associative initiatives for individuals and entrepreneurs wishing to give their equipment a second life.

The donation is also an alternative to the recycling centre when the object is in used condition.

7. Recycling of waste.

Waste recovery is an important segment of the circular economy. They thus enter the process of sustainable supply of raw materials and complete the virtuous circle.

The circular economy is, therefore, a set of eco-responsible players and practices to be pooled for real and lasting efficiency. A long-term commitment to perpetuate human activities while preserving the planet and our health.

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