4 min read

The Circular Economy is Better Than the Linear Economy

The terms ‘linear’ and ‘circular’ economy refer to different ideas of how we produce and consume things. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. However, the circular economy is increasingly being referred to as a way to support sustainability and economic growth.

What is the Linear Economy?

The Linear Economy
The traditional linear economy follows the “take-make-waste” process. Raw materials are collected and made into products until they can no longer be used. They then are discarded as waste because their economic value has been exhausted.

In a world of growing populations and limited resources, the linear economy exhausts raw materials, resulting in CO2 emissions. It’s estimated that 68% of raw materials are non-renewable meaning at some point we will run out of these resources. The overall global impact todate is dramatic - natural resources are being depleted by an estimated 45% annually.

In our daily life we tend to give little or no thought to the resources used to make the products we consume. Even fewer of us think about what happens to them when we no longer need them. Excluding the more expensive items like houses and cars, when something breaks we all have the tendency to buy a new version. The result of this is ever growing landfills. Simply put, many of the non-expensive items that we use are not made for reuse, repair, refurbishment, or able to be manufactured. (Ministry For the Environment)

What is the Circular Economy?

Circular Economy
In contrast to the take-make-waste process the linear economy follows, the circular economy aims to drastically reduce waste by keeping resources in use for as long as possible. In doing this the maximum value is extracted from the resource. This is achieved by recovering and regenerate products/materials at the end of each service life (forming a circular, hence the "circular economy”) (MFE).

It’s designed on 3 basic principles: (Ellen Macarthur)

  • Design out waste and pollution: By focusing on design, the circular economy can eliminate the concept of waste and avoid it ending up in landfills or incinerators
  • Keep products and materials in use: In the circular economy, products are reused, repaired, remanufactured, and recycled
  • Regenerate natural systems: Instead of continuously degrading nature, the circular economy works to build natural capital
As the world’s population grows, the demand for raw materials increases. To ensure we’ve got enough raw materials, implementing the circular economy is vital (European Parliament)

Why there is a move to the circular economy

From a New Zealand perspective, there are government policies that are helping move the country to a circular economy. The most important ones are the Waste Minimisation Act, the Zero Carbon Act, and the Resource Management Act.

Waste Minimsation Act

The Waste Minimisation Act 2008 encourages New Zealanders to reduce the amount of waste we generate and dispose of. Overall, the goal is to reduce the environmental harm of waste and provide economic, and social and cultural benefits to the country (MFE).

Zero Carbon Act

New Zealand's Zero Carbon Act

The Zero Carbon Amendment Act 2019 provides a framework so New Zealand can develop and implement clear and stable climate change policies (MFE).

Resource Management Act 1991

Focusing on sustainable resource management, this Act considers the impact of activities on the environment. As well as managing air, soil, fresh water, and costa marine areas, the Act also regulates land use and its infrastructure as they are important parts to planning the future of New Zealand (MFE).

When implemented correctly, the circular economy can tick off many of the goals. It can be complicated to implement if transitioning from linear to circular, but the benefits win out in the long run. There is, however, a much easier way to become a part of the circular economy - using Interbloc concrete blocks in your projects.

Envirocon Makes It Easy

Our world is built on concrete, and in New Zealand we produce over 10 millions tonnes of it per year. About 300,000 tonnes of this high quality certified concrete will end up as waste, simply because it can not be used before it dries. This is not the fault of the manufacturers or customers of concrete companies - it's simply a reflection of the practicalities of ready mix concrete.

Waste in the construction sector isn’t just limited to concrete. Bad design of traditional building materials creates waste during the build process, and waste at the end of life of the structure through destructive dismantling.

Eliminating waste is why Envirocon exists.

We work with NZ’s leading concrete companies to divert high quality excess concrete to produce precast concrete construction systems. Success requires products which can be mass produced, yet provide flexibility in application and superior functionality.

We achieve this through innovative product and system design.

We think about the people who will use our blocks, and the places our blocks will be used. We think about how the needs of a structure may change over time, and what will happen at the end of its life.

Our designs harness the power of simplicity, because simple products are fast to learn and easy to use.

From this comes Interbloc and Stonebloc. At the core of the systems is a concrete block. The block designs look simple enough, but when you dive deeper they deliver a powerful combination of benefits.

They start life with low embodied carbon, and continue to reabsorb CO2 over their life.

They reduce time, labour, and materials waste during installation.

They deliver unparalleled durability, increasing the life of the structure.

They can be non-destructively dismantled and reused at the end of life.

It’s CarbonSmart. Low Carbon, Zero Waste.

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