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Tooth fairies and the Circular Economy (I)

Remember the day when you started wondering if the tooth fairy was real? Really, why would someone want your baby tooth, and buy it off you when you’re sleeping?

Although many of us never figured out the answer, the thrill was real. It wasn’t so scary to lose a tooth after all because the tooth fairy would turn it into a coin that contributed towards your candy funds. More candy, more cavities, faster the other tooth would come off, another candy bar closer (wishful thinking!)

Morale of the story: Your trash is someone else’s cash.

This is the fundamental concept of a circular economy. Before we get into that, what type of economy do we mainly live in today?

Linear economy dominates much of our consumption. The concept involves taking some resources, using some energy to make it into something else that we consume. Then it is being disposed when the product’s lifecycle ends. Linear economy in itself has not gotten us to where we are today if we only possess enough t-shirts to stay clean and fresh, and we would wear them until they are no longer wearable. But history gave us the industry revolution as well.

During the industry revolution, human beings found ways to efficiently create things in mass with machinery, and transportation systems to distribute them quickly to all sorts of places.

This allowed the supply of goods to be produced in the speed of light, with a certain standard of quality. Throughout the years, to rapidly create enough supply to meet global demands. Many synthetic products were produced. Chemicals that would get rid of pesticide from crops or enhance the growth of plants, others that would create colors of the rainbow in our clothes. All of this compound with the need to also compete in offering low prices meant that disposal of such waste and chemicals should be done so in the most cost-efficient manner, like dumping it to the ocean (quickly, when no one is looking!).

The problem? Resources on the planet are limited. The energy used to produce these goods are used once for consumption that has a very short life cycle. Hence we have to use a lot of it, and the disposed goods and waste cannot be naturally decomposed.

The concept of circular economy looks at resolving such issues by ultimately reducing the need to extract more resources and creating more waste by prolonging the lifecycle of products.

Circular economy consists of several layers, ordered from the longest to shortest route of the circle:

Rebuild & Renew
Reuse & Resell
Refurbish & Fix

Well, that doesn’t answer the question in why one’s trash is someone else’s cash does it? Why is recycling a long route compared to renting?

I’m going to hold the suspense just for a little while! To be continued…