The Circular Economy
The circular economy to enable a sustainable planet
Our globalized, convenience, and marketing-driven economy has resulted in many people having access to products from all over the world at affordable prices. These products have brought levels of material comfort unimaginable to previous generations. However, at the very same time, the way we are doing things is reaching its limits. We take resources from the ground to make products, which we use, and, when we no longer want them, throw them away. Take-make-waste. We call this a linear economy.
When we look at the plastics industry, this is no different. The global plastics industry produced approximately 370 million metric tons of fossil-based materials in 2019 and, due to the growth in worldwide population, that number is expected to triple in demand by 2050. Another astonishing statistic is that forty percent of the plastic produced for packaging purposes is used just once and then discarded. As stats like these rightly raise environmental concerns, we need to act now.
Transforming towards a circular economy
The objective of a circular economy is to create the highest possible value, for the longest possible time, while consuming as little as possible material. A circular economy is a solution for the material scarcity we are facing as well as the waste affecting our environment. Therefore, we must transform all the elements of the take-make-waste system: how we manage resources, how we make and use products, and what we do with the materials afterwards. Only then can we create a thriving economy that can benefit everyone within the limits of our planet.
To realize a circular economy, businesses, governments, and consumers need to collaborate, as climate change and waste are systematic issues. For example, the circular economy requires a change in designing our products, the collection infrastructure, legislation, customer education, and financial practices. This may sound like an immense task and to be honest, it is. But, as I have said before, we need to act now.
I would like to share with you three core principles for anyone who wants to apply the concept of a circular economy, as developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
- The first principle is to ‘design out’ waste and pollution to prevent waste and pollution being generated in the first place. Examples of this are using less material or even preventing material usage.
- The second principle is to keep products and materials in use as long as possible. This can be realized by, for example, recycling or reusing materials. Often, this requires new circular business models to support the collection of materials.
- A third principle to support a circular economy is to regenerate natural systems.
Avantium’s role in the circular economy
Avantium firmly believes in a circular economy. Therefore, we only develop bio-based materials that are in line with the principles of the circular economy. For example, we support material reduction by offering the high-performance, bio-based material PEF that enables the light-weighting of products, we develop bio-based re-use solutions and are champions of closed-loop recycling propositions. Avantium has proprietary recycling knowledge and works together with partners to have its materials recycled and returned to their original quality and value. We believe in the long-term value of our materials; therefore, used materials can always be returned to Avantium to enable a new generation of fossil-free products.
We are actively seeking like-minded brands and plastic conversion companies to team up with us to challenge the status quo of today’s linear economy. If you are one of them, contact us!
 Source: Statista, Global plastic production 1950-2019
 Ellen MacArthur Foundation
 Source: Roland Geyer, University of California, Santa Barbara, December 2020