Economy without waste: changing linear to circular

According to the research by the Accounts Chamber, Russians throw away more than 65 million tons of waste annually. Every year this figure increases by 1-2%. This is leading us to the garbage collapse - the moment when there will be no place for waste in Russia left.

Wasting Resources: The Linear Economy
Today Russia, like most countries, lives by the principles of a linear economy. This is a simple scheme:
  • the manufacturer creates the product and its packaging from primary resources
  • consumer buys it
  • she uses it for a limited time
  • then throws it in the trash can.
  • from the trash bin, the waste goes into the waste container near the house, from there - to the landfill.

This is a line that has a beginning - the extraction of a resource, a middle - the production of a product and its use, and an end - the moment when the expired product is thrown into the trash.
A linear economy is highly unsustainable in the long run and creates the false notion that resources are infinite. But this is not true. In fact, most of the resources we use to produce things are finite. The linear economy depletes natural resources, because they do not return to the production cycle, but become garbage instead.
The situation is aggravated by the lack of recycling infrastructure. Waste that we do not recycle accumulates in landfills. According to Greenpeace, only 7% of the total amount of waste is recycled. The rest lies in Russian landfills and poisons the soil, water and air.

Saving Resources: The Circular Economy
There is another way: a circular economy. At the moment, in Russia it takes root together with the "waste reform". This is a model in which recycled materials are used in the production of new products instead of primary resources.

The scheme is a little more complicated, but much more sustainable:
  • the manufacturer creates a product from recycled materials,
  • consumer buys it
  • then brings it for recycling
  • the product/packaging is recycled into new resources.
  • manufacturers create new things out of them.

The circular economy helps conserve natural resources and bring them back into production. And most importantly, it creates the conditions for zero waste production and a zero waste economy. This will reduce the burden on the environment, stop the growth of landfills and prevent the depletion of valuable resources.

For the circular economy to work, you need to create the right conditions:
  • Reduce the production and consumption of disposable goods.
  • Standardize packaging and produce it from a limited number of standard recyclable materials. This will simplify the task of separate waste collection and further recycling.
  • Create a large-scale infrastructure for recycling so that the number and capacity of recycling facilities correspond to the volumes of waste generated.
  • Introduce economic incentives for recyclers and manufacturers of recycled goods in the form of government support measures and investments.
  • Establish separate waste collection by creating an extensive and convenient infrastructure.
  • Inform the population about the benefits of separate waste collection and recycling, educate and motivate.

Circular economy in practice
Let's use an example to show how the circular economy works.
Lumber company X cut down 1,000 trees somewhere in the Siberian taiga. From these trees, woodworking company Y made cellulose fiber. At the same time, oil company L produced oil, for example, in Yamal, from which plastic was made. Plastic and cellulose met in the Moscow region, where a plant for the production of composite paper goods made disposable coffee cups out of them.
Then the cups are sent all over Moscow to our favorite coffee houses and restaurants.
On the way to work, manager B. stops by for coffee and a croissant. He takes coffee in the “paper” cup. Having finished his croissant coffee, he throws the cup into the bin in the coffee shop. In the evening, the contents of the bin will be picked up by a garbage truck and taken to the landfill.
The life cycle of the coffee cup will end, and with it the life cycle of the resources used to produce it - that tree from the taiga and oil produced in the North. The used product and the resources needed to produce it have become garbage. This is the scenario of the linear economy.
Let's replay it. In the evening, the contents of the trash bin are picked up by our driver and taken to the sorting and recycling point. The sorted "paper" cups go to our composite paper recycling center. There, dry-defibration equipment will convert the cups into recycled cellulose fiber and polyaluminum. After that, the cellulose will go to the paper factory and become an egg carton. The polyaluminum will go to the building materials factory and become a reinforcing additive for asphalt mixtures.
Like this, one used product turned into another. The resources spent on the production of a cup have returned to the production cycle and can endlessly move in a circle of “production-use-recycling-production”. This is how the circular economy works: without waste and preserving natural resources.

What can I do?
Believe in recycling!
  • Separate waste at home and take it to the appropriate collection points.
Start small, like collecting plastic bottles or drink caps separately. When you get used to it, add more fractions - glass, paper or metal. You'll see, it's easy!

  • Organize separate waste collection at your workplace.
Suggest to your colleagues to collect paper or plastic containers. Voice the idea to your management - chances are high that they will support you, because this will help your company build a reputation of a responsible business.

  • Reduce the use of single-use items.
Most disposable products can be replaced wtih reusable alternatives: thermal mugs for coffee, cloth pads for the face, and even reusable shoe covers!

  • Use all the advantages of sharing services.
Instead of buying new, shop for used items on popular advertising websites. And do not throw things away, instead sell or give them away to friends or charity. Good for the environment and for the wallet.

You think it's a small step. But a small step of millions of people can lead us to a zero waste future.