Circular Economy

Currently, the dominant mode of making and using things in our economy involves digging up resources to manufacture products and infrastructure, then discarding to landfill or recycling when we are finished with those materials. This has been dubbed the “take-make-dispose” economy.

As such, the core idea behind the circular economy is not new. There is significant overlap with concepts such as “cradle-to-cradle” design and with industrial ecology, which have been around for decades. But it’s only now that these ideas are becoming more mainstream.

Read more from Professor Suzanne Benn: Explainer: What is the Circular Economy? posted in The Conversation, 25 February 2014.


Teaching Resources 

WEF 2014 report: Towards the Circular Economy

In this report, the World Economic Forum and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, with analytics provided by McKinsey & Company, joined forces to reconcile the concept of scaling a circular economy within the reality of a global economy and complex multi-tier supply chains. The key objective is to propose a very specific joint plan of action for industry leaders. Visit the website - and download the report below.

From the Executive Summary:

The challenge of closing materials loops and regenerating natural assets is an exponential function of product complexity and supply chain length. While more localized production is experiencing a robust renaissance in some economies, we cannot ignore nor fail to tap the power of global division of labour, specialization and economies of scale.

This report sets out to emphasize that the circular economy must hold its promise not merely to the village economy, but also to a globalized economy of nine billion.It presents the concept of circularity as a tangible driver of industrial innovations and value creation for the 21st century global economy. In addition, it positions the concept for today’s global CEO as a practical business strategy to “hedge” against the complex and interconnected risks of resource competition, commodity price volatility, new materials technologies and changing consumer demands. A number of key messages stand out:

1. The circular concept fosters wealth and employment generation against the backdrop of resource constraints.

2. Circular supply chains are up and running— and they’ve gone global.

3. Supply chains are the key unit of action, and will jointly drive change.

4. Defining materials formulations is the key to unlocking change.

5. Four materials categories are prime candidates for demonstrating viability.

  • ‘Golden Oldies.’
  • ‘High Potentials.’
  • ‘Rough Diamonds.’
  • ‘Future Blockbusters.’

6. Catalysing a series of “Trigger Projects” is the most effective way to reach tipping points for each category faster.

7. Tangible outcomes can be achieved in two years through joint action.


WEWEF 2014 report: Towards the Circular Economy(4.5 MB) Download

Restorative Business and the Circular Economy

Presented as a Keynote at the CR3+ Conference: CSR Expanding Horizons, March 2014, Melbourne,  Australia. The presentation considers -

"What are the key management and governance principles needed to bring considerations of materials and energy flows together with principles of sharing and collaboration, necessary if business is to restore and sustain society and the planet?" 

- and includes an exploration of the circular economy.

Click through to teaching resources to download

Circular Economy Case Studies

A series of case studies have been developed by UTS researchers exploring businesses operating in a circular economy model. These cases are available for community members:                                 

The TuShare case outlines the sharing economy website created by James Moody. The TuShare case is available here

Another iniative co-founded by James Moody tipped to be the 'logistic company for the circular economy' the case study for Sendle is available here 

The Makers Place is a Not-for-Profit membership based organisation that encourgaes individuals to engage with their creativity and ibcorporates the use of 3D printing technology. The Makers Place case study is available here