The shift to a circular economy from a linear economy is not a just a passing trend but a necessity. For many decades, we have been living a linear lifestyle, wherein raw materials are used to create a product, and after its use, waste such as broken appliances or packaging are disposed of. Most of our waste end up in landfills or in the ocean, causing pollution and irreparable damage to the planet and to ourselves.
Due to the needs of the world’s ever-increasing population, natural resources are being depleted at an unprecedented rate. The planet can no longer support a linear economy of “take, make and dispose.” Continuing to live this way will not result in a sustainable lifestyle. To create a viable future for generations to come, we need to shift to a circular economy.
To make that shift away from a linear economy, we must ensure that all services and manufacturing procedures are carried out with the circular economy in mind – that is, keeping resources in use as long as possible and once the maximum value of a product has been expended, recovering and then recycling usable materials is a must to ensure that resources are made serviceable again.
Recovering, recycling and reusing resources is in line with the PaaS model and is the backbone of a sustainable lifestyle in a circular economy. PaaS, or product-as-a-service not only involves using fewer natural resources and using them sustainably, the concept also prevents any waste from ending up in landfills or in the ocean – that’s if PaaS service providers follow the circular paradigm.
In business, the PaaS model offers consumers the ability to use the benefits of a product without actually buying the goods. The product remains in the ownership of the manufacturer or service provider. Once a product’s usefulness is all spent, the service provider takes the item away for materials recovery and recycling so that resources can be upcycled – reutilized for a new product.
In a simple recycling economy, materials eventually end up as waste when products can no longer be recycled. This is evident in the so-called “eco-friendly paper cups” which cannot really be recycled due to the waterproof lining on the paper. The PaaS system that applies the circular paradigm ensures that products are designed so materials can be recycled and reused practically forever.
A product-as-a-service offering can be more than just providing a service. If a service provider applies circular methods, then a PaaS scheme can be the ultimate environment-friendly business model that helps people lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
When products are manufactured following the circular economy model, wherein available resources are reused over and over, and procurement, harvesting or mining of natural resources are significantly cut, hundreds of billions of US dollars are saved. The environment is preserved as well. People and even wildlife will benefit from decreased pollution from waste and preservation of the environment.
Unlike the disposable habits of a linear economy, the sustainable lifestyle from a circular economy prevents waste. In a true circular economy, manufacturers have to design products to be upcycled. When a new product is needed, materials have to be obtained sustainably. So when the raw material enters the cycle, it must follow the production-use-recycle-production sequence.
In a linear economy, companies purposely produce and sell goods that last shorter than their natural lifespan. Appliances, clothing and even vehicles are manufactured to breakdown quickly to encourage frequent repeat purchases. Appliances only last as long as the warranty, clothes deteriorate after a few washes, and computers and smartphones become obsolete after a number of software updates.
The short lifespans of products become a non-issue if consumers acquire the services of a PaaS provider. In a product-as-a-service business model, consumers subscribe to the use of a product. If a product breaks down, a PaaS provider will instantaneously replace the broken item with one that works. This practice encourages manufacturers and service providers to offer more durable products.
In a circular economy, companies don’t just follow a circular model during the production process, they are also motivated to manufacture more durable goods that last longer. Fast fashion, cheap throw-away clothing produced quickly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends may be replaced by more high-quality clothing made of sustainable and recyclable fabrics.
Simply put, a linear economy involves mining or harvesting raw materials that we process into goods that are thrown away after use. The circular economy aims for the elimination of waste by designing products that enable disassembly and reuse. The latter closes the cycle of raw materials which requires more than just recycling.
Traditionally the main catchphrase of environmentalism has been “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” The circular economy takes it a step further wherein resources are used to complete the cycle. This business strategy and sustainable lifestyle not only reduces or eliminates waste but also ensures that we have enough food and resources to go around for future generations.