The Circular Economy

At the Harmony in Food and Farming conference, Dame Ellen MacArthur spoke of her childhood goal to sail around the world solo, an ambition which she achieved twice, once in 2000 and again in 2004. During her expedition, she gained an insight into how systems function, realising that on the boat, the resources you have are all that you have, they are finite. This realisation led her to look at the economy in a different way. The conveyor-belt system of human extraction and consumption is part of what she calls a ‘Linear economy’ in which the majority of products get thrown away.

Dame Ellen asks us if there is another way of doing things, a way of shifting the line so that it becomes circular… What if you were to apply this idea of a ‘circular economy’ to materials – both biodegradable ones as well as technical material – metals, plastics and polymers. If these materials were also designed to fit the cycle, designed to be recoverable and able to re-enter the manufacturing cycle, they would feed back into the economy.

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