Why do we need a Circular Economy?
Why do we need to keep it circular?
The issue is not with plastic per se but our single use consumption habits. However the way plastic is produced, used and disposed of, makes it a dangerous participant in the game of single use. We live in a world where products that we use for sometimes seconds are produced from a material that will outlive us all. We often use cheap, disposable items that have little or no value to us – everything from take away coffee cups and plastic bottles, cotton bud sticks to every day bathroom products, toys and even the food we buy. Because these items have so little value to us personally, we don’t mind leaving them behind on our trips, when we’re out and about or flushing them away in our homes, without giving too much thought about where it’s going to end up.
More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every year - Plastic Oceans International
If everyone in the world consumed the same as the average Welsh person…under a linear system, 2.5 planets would be required to provide enough natural resources for this consumer behaviour.
Not only are our consumption habits using up earths natural resources at an alarming rate but the plastic we are producing lasts a lifetime (sometimes several) and it never truly disappears. Plastics actually breakdown into tiny plastic particles (less than 5mm in size) known as microplastics that fill our oceans.
Microplastics currently outweigh the amount of zooplankton in the ocean - Lindeque et al., 2020
So what can we do?
Adopting a circular economy instead of the linear one we are used to today means that single use items are recovered, recycled and reused. It involves designing products so that there is minimal waste:
Today products are actually designed to break and fall apart such as our tv’s, game consoles, washing machines and our smart phones – this is called planned obsolescence and it’s the reason why your ageing smart phone isn’t compatible with the newest software updates or the accessories you’ve kept over the years.
In a circular economy everything is designed to last or be repurposed to become something else. So, we use what’s already out there to make new items instead of using virgin materials and adding to the never-ending pile of items we don’t need or want anymore. In order to truly achieve a world where we don’t over use our resources and under appreciate the consequences of this we must move away from the throwaway society we find ourselves in and move towards one that uses everything we’ve already put out into the world for as long as possible.
We can achieve this through refusing to use single use items (particularly those nasty plastic ones that are going to stick around forever), asking the government to take more responsibility and make sure producers bare the cost of putting these materials into the environment, and ban unnecessary single use plastics from production and sale. These are already ideas being discussed by Welsh government so we need to keep the pressure on and ensure that things move forward and these systems are brought into place.