The illusion of the circular economy: a critique of its premises and proponents

economia circolare, circular economy,

To date, the concept of circular economy is still presented in a confusing way, even by institutions. But is this due to ignorance on the subject or lack of interest?

The modern circular economy involves the optimization of the entire production chain. In particular, a correct reading involves assessing the impacts of each individual process in the supply chain with the ultimate goal of reducing the overall ecological footprint. This does not only lead to a reduction in the production of waste and/or other individual elements, but to a rethinking of all phases of a product’s life. Now let’s take a closer look at what experts use as an evaluation metric:

Circular economy and the transition from the 3Rs to the 9Rs

In the article “Circular economy: definition, importance and advantages“, included in the website of the European Parliament, however, we still find an obsolete and ineffective definition of the term.

The circular economy is still defined as it was used to do in the eighties by linking it to the “3Rs” (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), a model in which recycling is still very central. This concept has been outclassed and made obsolete with the introduction of the “9Rs”: Rerefuse, Rethink, Rereduce, Re-use, Repair, Refurbish, Remanu-facture, Repurpose, Recycle, Recover. An all-round vision of the processes of creating products and services.

We are therefore faced with a different concept of circular economy compared to the past, where collective thinking saw the return to the origin of raw materials as environmentally sustainable. However, authoritative scholars who monitor the causes of climate change see recycling as a practice to be avoided as it acts exactly the opposite: increased consumption of resources and a fall in emissions. It is no coincidence that the difference between circular and linear economy is zero.

A question arises: if nothing changes, nothing needs to be done!

In fact, in the most recent studies it has been shown that recycling is an impactful operation and it is therefore necessary to push everyone to reuse and recover the objects produced as much as possible. In particular, if plastic is to be recycled, it must then be reused for durable goods and not for disposable goods, so as to extend the life cycle of the product.

For example, the use of plastic should be reduced by 20% every year, especially reducing single-use plastics and focusing on compostable or reusable materials (European S.U.P.).

The goal must be to create objects that last over time and can be reused so as to reduce their impact.

Despite the vote  in plenary in the European Parliament on  the proposal for a regulation on packaging and packaging waste (PPWR), the Italian government has come out against the EU Packaging Regulation, to reset the reuse and quality recycling targets contained within it.

Our state, therefore, would be supporting the interests of companies more than the well-being of citizens (obtained thanks to a true application of the circular economy)

By referring to turning waste into a new resource, it is also possible to generate energy from organic waste. This operation, however, is little considered in Italy despite its great potential.

But what would be Italy’s duties towards the adoption of a true circular economy?

Adopt the European regulation and guarantee its citizens the right to health and environmental protection as provided for in the Constitution, articles 9 and 41. They therefore expect much more progress from the Italian state and also from the European Union.

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