The circular economy has been rising for some time. However, it is difficult to defeat the classic so-called linear economic pawns. But digital consumption patterns and our online life have already given substance to this concept.
Reuse, Reuse, Recycling: These are the foundations of the circular economy. But how can this idea really be applied? A point about the future of the booming concept with Sébastien Bourdin, a professor and researcher in economic geography at EM Normandy School, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Caen.
What is the Circular Economy? Where did this concept come from?
According to the definition of the Ecosystem Transition Agency (ADEME), this is an economic system of exchange and production, efficiency, reuse, resource recycling, and environmental impact at all stages of product life.
It’s one definition in particular, but it nicely summarizes the basics of things. It is an economy that operates in a virtuous circle and seeks to abolish the concept of waste.
Is this noble concept in contrast to or built in parallel with the classic so-called linear economy?
In reality, the circular economy is inextricably linked. About 80% of our economy has been operating for thousands of years, using ladle, based on the principles of a linear economy. That is, it extracts, manufactures, consumes, and disposes of raw materials. This is the current model and is still popular today. But today, new types of business and economic players are emerging, seriously questioning the environmental impact and recycling. This requires a circular economy of reuse, recycling and reuse. This is called Three R. In the field, we can see that things are going very fast and many organizations are discussing it and trying to develop strategies to adopt cyclical methods.
What is the level of acceptance of this concept in today’s French society? We feel that there is scientific research on the one hand and research on the means of production on the other.
That’s a big question. As part of a research project, we conducted several interviews with businesses and elected politicians to measure this level of acceptance. In particular, I wanted to know what the obstacles were in implementing a system linked to the circular economy. Both companies primarily responded that they lacked skills and technical support. Specifically, I’m talking about the circular economy, but I don’t know how to do it. There are new professions emerging today, such as the Ludologist, a waste recycling specialist. These new professions exist, but business leaders don’t know it or their staff don’t know how to go about it.
Second, there can be financial costs to launch a potentially terrifying new strategy. The regional circulation ecology approach also requires connecting companies to create synergies. Regarding waste issues, one waste can be useful for the other activity in the same area. However, due to lack of communication, businesses do not always know this. Lack of knowledge about available resources.
Overall, it’s a methodological issue. Ademe has also provided a support system for several years to create this synergy at the local level.
What kind of companies are using the circular economy today?
Companies like Leboncoin have been successful there. Taking this example, it is clear that everyone benefits from a social and environmental perspective.
If you want to throw away your coffee table, selling it to an individual is an economical resource instead. Anyone who wants to buy it will benefit financially from the new product. At the same time, manufacturing this coffee table is costly. Therefore, in theory, it is advantageous from an environmental point of view.
We are now seeing companies like BMW riding this wave. The brand’s recent advertising spot talked about the circular economy for 30 seconds, ending with the announcement of a vehicle designed with recycled materials. It’s clear that even the automotive industry, where environmental impacts are often pointed out, is trying to change the way we think about business models.
Do you think there is awareness of these subjects in the population? We use these sites and these services without realizing that they are part of the Circular Economy.
you are right. Beyond that, certain approaches are today certified as circular economies, even if they have existed for a long time. We simply put a word on the act. This applies not only to recycling, but also to repairs. Prior to Trente Glorieuses, there was much more culture of repairing objects. It declined from 2000 to 2010 to make a comeback.
You can quote Murfy, a startup that specializes in repairing washing machines and appliances. They pay € 85 (including travel and labor) and offer a refund if repairs are not possible. They claim that in 94% of cases the device is repairable. Then provide the customer with a free tutorial to identify the failure and fix it yourself. It’s pure Do It Yourself. We are really breaking the business model.
Further upstream, there is another aspect of eco-design. From the first thought of the product, we will think about recycling at the end of its life.
How do you define a “fair” and “positive” circular economy? What does the use of these two terms mean to you?
Almost naturally, I think the circular economy is fair and positive. See the example of carpooling. In the circular economy, this is called the functional economy. We don’t buy good things, we buy their features. In this case, it’s a car. Make the most of your assets at a particular time and benefit both sides. Therefore, for me, we are in a fair and positive economic situation. Sharing economy.
Today, some of the platforms that connect people in specific locations and lend and lend things are part of the circular economy. For example, the average drill usage time is 15 minutes in a lifetime. Spend 100 euros on the objects you use for a total of 15 minutes. Want to rent a tool for a few euros a day to maximize use and avoid new production?
From this point of view, it’s a really fair and positive economy. People who cannot afford to buy can enjoy the product and can make the best use of it. It also focuses on aspects of the environment that I believe to be basic.