In today’s world, three different types of economies are possible: Linear, Recycling, and Circular. These economies differ in terms of sustainability and the steps in which materials are used by consumers. All aspects of our life, from packaging to fashion, affect which economy we contribute toward, which is why it’s important to use our materials responsibly.
The first and least sustainable economy is a Linear Economy. In this economy, the products are made from raw materials, not recycled ones, and are thrown away after use. The waste is incinerated, piled up in landfills, or even deposited into bodies of water. One-time use products that contribute to a Linear Economy include packaging, many batteries, and plastic bags.
Recycling Economies are an environmental step up from a Linear Economy. Materials from products that would have been thrown in the trash are reused to make new products before finally becoming non-recyclable waste. Paper from packaging is recycled to make new paper; plastic from straws and bags are recycled to make new plastic products. Eventually, however, all these products once again go to landfills.
The last and most ideal economy is a Circular Economy. In this economy, nothing gets wasted because it is constantly being reused by consumers and manufactured into new goods by producers. Building a Circular Economy starts with the producers. They are responsible for designing things, such as electronics and clothes, to be easy to repair, as opposed to having to replace the whole product for one small defect. They should also obtain their materials for production from recycled products, such as recycled denim or plastic. Consumers should use these sustainable and reusable products until finally retiring them through either recycling, donating, or selling. Products such as metal straws, reusable bags, and reusable bottles eliminate the need for single-use plastics. Circular Economies focus on restoration, renewable energy, and biodegradable materials, making it the most sustainable way to use products.
Currently, many citizens in the US are living in a Recycling Economy. We take plastic bags from supermarkets but then recycle them once we get home. We drink soda and then recycle their aluminum cans. Even so, most citizens in the US choose to throw out things like plastic bags and aluminum cans simply because it seems easier.
As citizens of the world, we need to start taking accountability for how our products affect the environment. We can start small by recycling everything we can. Paper, plastic, metal. We can buy from sustainable brands that obtain their materials responsibly. We can switch out one-time use products for reusable ones. In small ways, we can all contribute towards a Circular Economy to make the world a better place. We have the ability to contribute to a more sustainable method of using our products in order to preserve the one planet that we have.