The latest buzz words in the market are 'circular economy'. Given the phenomenal rise of circular economy thinking in recent years, the waste hierarchy as it stands may no longer be a valid starting point for business.
'Business as usual' sees contractors and the supply chain following the waste hierarchy; reduce, reuse and recycle, to a greater or lesser extent. But the concept of the circular economy goes beyond the 3 R's and aims to maximise total material resource efficiency.
The traditional 'linear' model preaches the concept of 'make, break, and discard'. The circular economy is a concept in which everything is engineered to be constantly reused or recycled. It requires rethinking of design, manufacturing, selling, re-using, recycling and consumer ownership to keep resources in use for as long as possible and to extract maximum value.
There is massive economic advantage for businesses adopting a circular economy. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) calculates profit of up to £23 billion per year for UK businesses through low cost or no cost improvements and McKinsey estimates a global value of $3.7 trillion per year (ref WRAP).
The Dutch are hot favourites in the race to becoming a circular economy and Japan has already shown a huge success in changing their linear manufacturing and consumption system into a more circular, collaborative system. The approach adopted by Japan is highly effective and contributes a significant proportion of the country's GDP, employing hundreds of thousands of people.
As the EU set new, challenging waste targets and reviews proposals to ban sending plastics, wood, textiles and food to landfill, the circular economy may be the answer to our resource and employment challenges.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
- Building Revolutions - review.
- Climate change act.
- Cradle to cradle product registry system.
- Design for deconstruction.
- Energy targets.
- EU Referendum - Environmental and climate change consequences for the built environment.
- Green supply chain management.
- Lean construction.
- Mean lean green.
- Recyclable construction materials.
- Renewable energy.
- Sustainable materials.
- UandI Think event with Studio SWINE.
- Waste management plan.
- Waste management plan for England.
Featured articles and news
Green paper published for consultation.
Mental health issues effect 80% of construction workers. Read our interview with the founders of a new wellbeing initiative.
Would Stephenson be disappointed by the lack of progress on the high speed transport of Hyperloop?
The immersive pop-up cinema experience that could revolutionise on-site health and safety training.
5 out of 10 filtering facepieces fail HSE tests.
Eleven Magazine announce the winner and runners-up in their Moontopia competition.
As January is the time for hitting the gym, Designing Buildings Wiki lists the best gym architecture in the world.
London is at the top of the list of global construction megacities, beating Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
What are the innovative business models of the future, and how to incentivise supply chains to work on a whole life basis?