The circular economy: How do we get there?

In the latest issue of the Eco-Business Magazine, we look at the rise of the circular economy in Asia and how this approach to business is opening up new opportunities and sparking a revolution in the way resources are used.

KL skyline at sunrise
Sunset of the city center at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In Asia, circular economy approaches to business are rising in popularity as the region faces growing challenges of resource scarcity and environmental pollution. Image: Shutterstock

It seems criminal, when you think about it, that across the world tonnes of waste are generated and sent to the landfill daily even as we face mounting challenges of resource scarcity, rising commodity prices, and environmental degradation.

This is why the circular economy is such an exciting proposition.

Simply put, it is an approach to business that eliminates all waste through design inspired by nature. And it is a powerful movement in which early adopters of this concept are already disrupting their sectors and creating new value for consumers even as they boost their bottom line.

With the emergence and rising popularity of the circular economy, I firmly believe the days of the “take, make, dispose” linear economy are numbered, along with its companies.

In Asia, my favourite examples of the movement in action include NetWorks, a project by Interface and ZSL that buys discarded fishing nets from rural coastal communities in Philippines to be recycled into fresh carpet tiles and a tie-up between Singapore-based Omni United and US brand Timberland to launch tyres that are collected and made into shoe soles.  

As a subset of the circular economy, the sharing economy movement has also spawned countless apps such as Airbnb and Uber, allowing people to make money from underused assets. Asian versions of these apps such as PandaBed and iCarsClub are also emerging, even as societies grapple with the accompanying regulatory challenges.

And we’re only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the economic opportunity and resource revolution which the circular economy offers.

Research by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and McKinsey shows that with current technologies, the materials cost savings of adopting the circular economy approach globally is at over US$1 trillion per year by 2025. 

The European Union is meant to introduce by this year a ‘Circular Economy package’ which includes six laws on waste, packaging, landfill, end-of-life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and electronic equipment waste.

In Asia, such regulation is lagging behind but governments are making some headway and realising the benefits of circular business models, largely because of the benefits to be reaped in energy and resource security, and not to mention, reduced pollution.

We are now at the beginning of a new industrial revolution, and Eco-Business is excited to be presenting a series of stories around the circular economy which we hope will offer our readers new perspectives.

As many have pointed out before, waste is an entirely human concept. Nothing in nature is wasted. We could all find inspiration in that.

Click here to read and download the latest issue of the Eco-Business Magazine.

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