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Circular Economy: The Path to Net Zero Carbon and Economic Diversification

Updated: Oct 12, 2023

As the race to net zero carbon is now going ahead at full steam around the world, one strategy will be able to make that possibility a reality. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, circular economy is a model of production that keeps materials, products, and services in circulation for as long as possible. The blueprint will include methods that are regenerative by design but, also allows materials to be used in a technique that maintain the highest quality for as long as possible. The goal is to virtually eliminate waste through high-caliber design of resources, products, and systems which include business models. In addition, this paradigm encourages the value chain to boost its capability and efficacy, cut back unnecessary consumption, and the need for disproportionate extraction of resources from nature. The decrease in demand for natural resources alleviate the burden of human activity on the ecosystem. It energizes the search for effective management rather than the control of resources.

How will this affect economic development organizations?

“The circular economy could provide new opportunities for economic diversification, value creation, and skills development.” (Laura Wellesley, Chatham House). Laura Wellesley is a senior research fellow in the Environment and Society Program at Chatham House. She works on issues related to sustainable diets, food security, and climate change. Furthermore, her publications span the areas of healthy and sustainable food systems, global food trade risks, agricultural commodity supply chains, and trade in illegal timber. In addition, the conversion to this type of economic development model will require EDOs to focus on existing business that encourage circularity and utilize the five R’s: Refuse, Reflect, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.

Overtime, all business sectors can benefit from the conversion to circular economy. It is important that businesses recognize and leverage these resources according to their position in the value chain. For example, local fashion industries in New York have created an #WearNext Campaign. The Wear Next Campaign is designed to encourage citizens of New York to keep clothes in use and out of landfills. In this circular economy, the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) united with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular Initiative. During this collaboration, an online interactive map was constructed by DSNY and marks more than 1,100 public and private collection points across the city where people can return clothes they no longer wear.

On the global stage, one community in Canada is taking circular economy to new heights. As a leader in sustainable development, the City of Guelph and County of Wellington are advancing on their aspirations of a circular economy centered on businesses and solutions through the development of Canada’s first circular economy accelerator and test platform. In 2019, through Infrastructure Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, Guelph-Wellington was awarded $10 million for its pledge to diminish food waste and to launch Our Food Future, which produced Canada’s first technological-empowered circular food economy. This program is encouraging the evolution of a comprehensive food-secure ecosystem by 2025, which boosts access to cost-effective and nutritious food by 50 percent, manages waste as a resource to expand circular economic benefits and generates 50 new circular businesses and collaborations.

Both cities provide examples of circular economy campaigns that existing businesses, local governments, and economic development organizations are spearheading around the world. If you would like to hear more about circular economy and how it could bring effective change to your region, please reach out to me through the form below.

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