What is the circular economy? Options for an ecological transition

circular economy nature

The environmental crisis, derived from the indiscriminate consumption of natural resources, raises the need for a new economic system. Faced with this challenge, the European Commission (2020) presented an action plan for the circular economy. Their focus is on recycling and reducing waste. But what is the circular economy and what are its principles?

Discover below the successful experiences that guide this sustainability proposal.

What is the circular economy ? Differences with the linear economy

The linear economy is based on a production cycle characterized by:

  • Commercial growth: the manufacture of items with a limited useful life points to a constant renewal of these goods. For example, in the European Union less than 40% of electronic devices are recycled. This is due to the absence of repair options and the lack of knowledge, on the part of citizens, of guarantee policies. The importance of pedagogy to understand what the circular economy is is increasing.
  • The climatic effect: the exploitation of certain raw materials implies a huge energy expenditure and gas emissions that contribute to global warming. In this sense, the European Union contributes a total of 2,500 million tons of waste per year. Of these, 61.7% is generated by mining and construction; industries with a high impact on the deterioration of ecosystems.

In contrast, the circular economy is governed by:

  • The reduction of the ecological footprint: the design of productive schemes based on environmental neutrality. Currently, the textile industry represents 20% of global drinking water pollution and 10% of carbon emissions. Therefore, the production of fibers with high durability and recycling indexes is privileged.
  • Innovative development: the transformation of consumer habits implies a reordering of the market. In this regard, the European Parliament (2020) proposes a new food safety system. The strategy includes the implementation of organic farming, abandoning pesticides and reducing the rate of food waste by 50%.

Specific principles of action of the circular economy

circual economy in the big city scheme

For a complete understanding of what the circular economy is, it is necessary to take into account dynamics such as:

Sustainable industry

It consists of productive structures that integrate the optimal management of natural resources. The digitization of processes is a central element, since it provides timely data on energy and commercial performance. In this way, it is possible to maximize profitability by saving and reusing materials, services, among other business functions.

Economy of functionality

It includes a service sales system. Thus, the user does not require a purchase to access certain goods. Instead, you pay for its use when the need arises. For example, laundry services only charge per wash cycle. The benefits lie in its low economic cost and the possibility of curbing excessive consumption.


It lies in the articulation of environmental guidelines in the different stages of the generation of goods and services. This projection ranges from the energy used in the creation of the product, to the disposal of waste, which is why it is essential in the consolidation of a smart city. One of the most iconic examples is the Iberdrola Tower in Bilbao, whose design has managed to make this a model building in terms of sustainability.

Culture of reuse

Establishes the extension of the useful life of the articles. The calculation of durability and repairability of the main household appliances allows regulating their scheduled obsolescence. As a result, the prolonged use of ten years leads to savings of between 962 and 1,995 euros and avoids the emission of between 219 and 528 kg of CO2.

Successful initiatives to understand what the circular economy is

The feature that defines the circular economy is the constant evolution of production models. Among the projects that set trends on what the circular economy is, there are:


It is about the revitalization of the soil in European cities, through compost. This organic material is produced with the collection of algae and biowaste supplied by local populations. Compost has contributed not only to agricultural improvement, but also to the recovery of forest areas affected by mining.

Socrates building

The first building in Europe to be built based on a circular economy. It stands out for its sustainable architecture, since 88% of its materials can be used in other constructions. Likewise, its design implied a saving of 320 tons of CO2 and a 20% return on investment in the long term. Without a doubt, this is one of the projects that best helps us understand what the circular economy is and how it is implemented.

Sea of ​​Leaves

This USA hotel offers sustainable tourism through a building made of lime, sand and thermoclay. In this way, the temperature is regulated without the intervention of cooling or heating devices. Also, it has an organic garden that is useful to the restaurant and a swimming pool disinfected with salt instead of chlorine. Once you learn about what the circular economy is, you can no longer think about excessive consumption habits. For this reason, it is important that you replicate these practices and initiatives, to the best of your ability. Remember: small actions with your family or friends can lead to big transformations in your home and community.

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