Background of Circular Economy

Aug 6, 2021 - 21:57
Background of Circular Economy

As early as 1966 Kenneth Boulding raised awareness of an "open economy" with unlimited input resources and output sinks, in contrast with a "closed economy", in which resources and sinks are tied and remain as long as a possible part of the economy.

Boulding's essay "The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth" is often cited as the first expression of the "circular economy", although Boulding does not use that phrase.

The circular economy is grounded in the study of feedback-rich (non-linear) systems, particularly living systems.

The contemporary understanding of the Circular Economy and its practical applications to economic systems evolved incorporating different features and contributions from a variety of concepts sharing the idea of closed loops.

Some of the relevant theoretical influences are cradle to cradle, laws of ecology (e.g., Barry Commoner § The Closing Circle), looped and performance economy (Walter R. Stahel), regenerative design, industrial ecology, biomimicry and blue economy (see section "Related concepts").

The circular economy was further modelled by British environmental economists David W. Pearce and R. Kerry Turner in 1989.

In Economics of Natural Resources and the Environment, they pointed out that a traditional open-ended economy was developed with no built-in tendency to recycle, which was reflected by treating the environment as a waste reservoir.

In the early 1990s, Tim Jackson began to create the scientific basis for this new approach to industrial production in his edited collection Clean Production Strategies, including chapters from pre-eminent writers in the field, such as Walter R Stahel, Bill Rees and Robert Constanza.

At the time still called 'preventive environmental management', his follow-on book Material Concerns: Pollution, Profit and Quality of Life synthesised these findings into a manifesto for change, moving industrial production away from an extractive linear system towards a more circular economy. 

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