Turning waste into resources
Traditionally, waste was considered as a source of pollution, and the main manner for its disposal was dumping. The economy functioned, and in many countries still functions, in accordance with the model of “take – make – use – throw away” which is a linear model by which each product unavoidably sooner or later comes to the end of its useful life. For the production of food and consumer goods for example, valuable materials are used which, under this particular model, are thrown away as soon as the products which they contained are consumed. This economic model is based mainly on the mining of resources resulting in their over-exploitation and the depletion of the environment.
The transition therefore to a cyclical economy aiming at the achievement of a sustainable development is more necessary than ever. The basic key of cyclical economy is the viewing of waste as resources and no longer as waste. Whatever was previously viewed as “waste”, constitutes a source for secondary raw material. The meaning of cyclical economy is based on the way in which natural ecosystems function, in which there is no waste as whatever comes to the end of its cycle of life, constitutes some form of raw material for another organism, or functionality.
In a similar manner, in an economy of this kind products are planned in such a way as to be included in cycles of materials, so that that their added value is sustained for as long as possible and the remaining waste be close to zero. Therefore, the basic goals of this new way of thinking is the restriction of the dumping of material with a simultaneous push for the reduction, reuse and recycling of products at the end of their lives. The achievement of these goals requires actions such as:
- The strengthening of innovation in the sector of recycling
- Offering incentives for the better design of products
- The creation of markets for secondary raw materials
- The creation of networks for the collection and management of products at the end of their lives
- The encouragement of preference for products manufactured partially or completely from secondary raw materials
- A change in the behaviour of consumers and particularly in the way they purchase and in the way they arrange the fate of their products at the end of their cycle of life.