Circular economy was highlighted as a global imperative by Kenneth Boulding in 1966. 49 years later there is still no actual circular economy anywhere, which is tells us something important – we know how not to do it. The conventional incremental strategy of increasing targets, taxes and regulations hasn’t worked. Making circular economy scale up will require a new strategy with new policy tools that create systemic change throughout the economy. There is only one mechanism on the planet with the power to do this job. The clue to identifying it, for those who have been busy looking elsewhere, is in the words ‘circular economy’!
Circular economics is the machinery for a circular economy. This can be designed just as a circular business model or circular product can be designed. Although we’re talking about the whole economy and all resource flows, paradoxically the design of the economics is not more complex than circular designs for a business or product. The systemic errors that currently make linear outcomes likely can be corrected to make them unlikely. This would make circular thinking the new normal, so businesses, products and lifestyles quickly become circular everywhere. This offers a future, should we act fast enough, with the possibility of regaining climate, ecological, resource and economic security.
In November 2006 I published the world’s first method to make markets circular. In a milestone to making this happen for real, my first workshop for government and business leaders was held in March 2015 at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. It was organised by Arthur ten Wolde from IMSA and moderated by Ellen Hoog Antink from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO). I was keynote speaker by videolink, presenting and discussing ‘precycling premiums as a policy tool to mainstream circular economy’ with an enthusiastic group. I’m grateful for the super questions and the broad interest in advancing a feasibility study and new systemic national/EU policy.
The exciting thing about this workshop is that circular economy can now be made to happen at scale, after almost 5 decades of being pursued only in ways that ironically prevent it from working at scale. Targets, taxes and regulations, which create more resistance as they increase, are no longer the only available approach. Now that the knowledge to achieve genuinely ambitious circular economy is available we can ask a new question. Who will lead? Which nations will advance the economics that, if implemented fast and fully enough, can halt or reverse the myriad problems still being caused by today’s economics?
More information: Workshop scope. James Greyson’s presentation, Arthur ten Wolde’s presentation, workshop minutes including discussion notes and participant list. BlindSpot’s ‘Circular Economy 4Real’ project. Best practice case study of precycling premiums from an international review by De Groene Zaak. Please get in touch with any questions or to discuss options for policy and practice in your business or country. Now you can lead!