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What is a Circular Economy & How Does It Work?

If we want to cut down global greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst consequences of climate change, we must also drastically reduce the consumption of new raw materials. How? By moving from a linear economy to the model known as the circular economy, where all products at the end of their life cycle do not become waste to be disposed of, but valuable secondary materials that can be reused to make new things. In short: a model where differentiating better and adopting technologies to recycle more and more efficiently reduces our pressure on the planet and curbs the effects of global warming.

Graphic explaining the linear economy system
Linear Economy Stystem

Historically, items have been designed to fail. The circular economy will move us away from this wasteful system of consuming goods, it drives innovation and promotes renewable materials.

Circular economy

Linky Innovation supports the circular economy and it is at the heart of our business model. Linky, the foldable electric skateboard, has been designed following the Design for Disassembly (DfD) approach, a process by which the design is implemented so as to allow for easy and economically sustainable disassembly of the product at the end of its life, and the reuse and/or recycling of its most valuable components.

 

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“Designing for disassembly or deconstruction is one of the ways that product developers are enabling a circular economy to take shape. Taking apart the original components of a product and reusing them – in either the same or a completely different product – has environmental benefits. It reduces reliance on virgin raw materials, as well as the energy needed to extract or mine them”.

This leaves the path open to a business model in line with circular economy principles: end-of-life items can be returned to be regenerated by replacing consumables (such as transmission and wheels), and giving new applications to battery packs, engines, and carbon fiber structures.

  • Structure: Polyamide & GF [Du Pont] Recyclable material + Carbon fibers with potentially unlimited life.
  • Motor: Easily removable and reusable on other products.
  • Battery: Removable and reusable on other applications.

We have already implemented a refurbishment service for used items: once the terms of the warranty are expired, customers use this service to extend the life of their skates by sending them back and having broken or worn-off parts replaced. In the future, we plan to expand this service by giving customers the option to send used items back and buy new ones at discounted prices. This will allow us to refurbish used items and resell them at special discounted prices.

The European Union has emphasized that the transition to a circular economy is necessary to achieve climate neutrality — and thus zero net CO2 emissions — and Green Deal goals by 2050. The EU parliament thus called on the European Commission to set constraints on the use of virgin raw materials by 2030 while simultaneously increasing recycling. To date, in fact, only 12 percent of materials used in Europe come from the circular economy. The EU also vows to act on the durability of products by promoting design research, but also actions such as repairing and reusing objects.

“Circular economy is one such way forward. It is a concept with clear aims — design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems — and offers a tangible pathway for a resilient economic recovery from the pandemic, while ensuring attention isn’t turned away from other global challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. But achieving these aims requires a re-imagination of what is possible and significant innovation efforts”.

 

What does “Circular Economy” mean?

A common misunderstanding minimizes the definition of circular economy to the familiar Reduce-Reuse-Recycle approach. But as Ellen MacArthur Foundation CEO Andrew Morlet explained during a Leading Disruption Panel in 2020: “Recycling alone will not save us. Circular economy is a “bigger idea” — a significant restructuring that forces us to rethink how we’ve done things since the rise of the first steam engine.


To better understand the circular economy, we can compare it to our current industrial economy, which is dominated by linear processes. Imagine a massive network of conveyor belts where goods are produced, used, and ultimately discarded. This one-way flow has a clear beginning and end.

Why is a Circular Economy Important?

A circular economy gains immense significance in the face of unprecedented climate change. As the United Nations’ International Resource Panel noted, a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions is the extraction and processing of natural resources. By prioritizing material recovery over material production, circularity reduces the impact of such emissions.

When implemented correctly and inclusively, a circular economy has the potential to protect an endangered environment, foster social equity, and boost sustainable economic progress. Furthermore, it offers respite for vulnerable communities who face disproportionate threats of displacement and extreme poverty under the present system.

A circular economy also imbues businesses with a greater sense of corporate social responsibility, which is actionable and trackable. Such benefits result from the three foundational principles of a circular economy:

  1. Elimination of waste
  2. Circulation of products and materials
  3. Regeneration of the natural environment


Moreover, disengaging finite resources from economic progress offers resilience that is advantageous to the environment, human welfare, and business.

How does the circular economy work?

1. Designs out waste and pollution

Circular economy designs out economic activities that negatively impact human health and natural systems. This includes the release of greenhouse gases, all types of pollution and traffic congestion.

2. Keeps products and materials in use

Circular economy favors designing products for durability, reuse, remanufacturing, and recycling to keep materials circulating for as long as possible. It’s an economy that encourages many different uses for materials instead of just using them up.

3. Regenerates living systems

Circular economy avoids the use of fossil fuels and non-renewable energy. By preserving and enhancing renewable resources, it returns valuable nutrients to the soil to support regeneration and actively improve the environment.

Final Thoughts

We have pushed past the planet’s limits to support humanity. World leaders, having woken up to the challenge, are now lifting their heads out of the sand and understanding its scale. We need to drastically cut the strain on the earth by rapidly recalibrating the global economy entirely. We believe that by backing companies that will help to deliver this economic reality will outperform those that remain wedded to the old paradigm. More than that, we can ensure that prosperity for future generations is maintained, or bettered.

It is really important that you, as a consumer, are aware of the damages that our attitude can cause, but most of all of how you can change things too.

Start to forget the idea to create, use and then throw away. Try to think in a circular way, where everything is useful and waste doesn’t exist anymore.

This is the first step to give life to change.

 

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