The circular economy represents an economic model where the residues deriving from production and consumption are reintegrated in the production cycles. In the logic of regeneration and therefore reuse and recovery of natural resources, to reduce the anthropic impact on the ecosystem. An essential impulse to the circularity of the system comes from the so-called waste hierarchy.
Circular economy, the waste hierarchy
The waste hierarchy was devised by the Dutch scientist Gerhardus Wilhelmus Adrianus Josephus ('Ad') Lansink (1934), using the scheme known as the Lansink's ladder. (1) The Lansink scale defines an order of preference to be applied to waste management, which is based primarily on waste prevention. On the now uncontested assumption of the finiteness of natural material resources.
Prevention therefore begins in the design phase of each material, whether it is intended for professional users and / or final consumers. Durability, repairability, readiness for reuse and, alternatively or at the end of its life, for recycling. Then, in order, the use of residual materials to generate energy. Finally, as a last resort, the landfill destination.
The Lansink scale, approved by the Dutch Parliament in 1979, has offered a decisive impetus to the development of environmental policies in Europe and in the world. And it is in fact at the basis of the so-called 'Circular Economy Package', the most advanced waste legislation in the world, which Europe adopted in 2018.
Circular economy, a collective effort is needed
The transition towards the circular economy also requires a much broader collective effort than the adoption of an evolved waste policy which forms its basis. First of all, determination towards goals is needed. The emergence of contamination of soils and water by poisons and plastics must induce cooperation between the various actors, public and private. On a local, macro-regional and planetary scale.
The value of the circular economy - referred to in several passages, among the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in the UN Agenda 2030 - must be understood in its extraordinary breadth. Cultural, social and occupational, as well as environmental. Investments are needed to develop new technologies and best practices and facilitate the transition to renewable energy and eco-logical economic systems.
Social enterprises and Third Sector Entities take on a crucial role in their turn, to promote awareness, commitment and employment in the territories. Under the banner of sustainable development and social inclusion.
(1) See https://www.isonomia.co.uk/towards-a-circular-resource-policy/