A recycling economy refers to an economic system where waste and discarded materials are collected, processed and transformed into new products, reducing the need for raw materials.
Types of recycling include:
- Physical recycling: breaking down used materials into raw materials to create new products.
- Biological recycling: using natural processes, such as composting, to break down organic waste into nutrient-rich soil.
- Chemical recycling: using chemical processes to convert used materials into new substances.
- Energy recovery: using waste to generate energy through processes such as incineration or anaerobic digestion.
- Product-to-product recycling: creating new products from the same material, without breaking it down into raw materials.
A circular economy, on the other hand, is a more holistic approach that aims to keep resources in use for as long as possible, reducing waste and minimizing the depletion of finite resources. It involves rethinking the entire lifecycle of products and services, from design to end-of-life, to create closed-loop systems where waste is reduced and resources are constantly regenerated.
Estimating the exact percentage of the global economy that is circular is difficult. However, it is widely acknowledged that the majority of the global economy is still based on a linear model of taking resources, using them to produce goods and services, and disposing of waste. The transition to a circular economy is a gradual process, but there is increasing recognition of the benefits it can bring in terms of reducing waste, conserving resources, and boosting economic growth.