If you haven’t heard Ellen MacArthur speak about her sailing in the southern ocean, or what this inspired her to do, or you don’t know the key ideas driving the circular economy, or what her Foundation is doing about this, and how it might just change all our lives for the better, then her recent TED talk is a good place to start.

It certainly adds a new dimension to environmental education, particularly from the stewardship point of view, and thinking about the circular economy provides a new perspective on the recycling business.


This graphic shows the essential difference between the linear and circular economies.  The linear one is the one we live in today with its take / make / dispose philosophy.  This has the production of waste, which has to be thrown away, at its heart.  But there is no  away.  All there is is the finite Earth.

The circular economy sees the complete separation of biological and technical cycles.  This means keeping anything made out of mineral raw materials away from living systems.  A circular economy aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value.  It’s key feature, however, is that economic growth and development can be decoupled from the consumption of finite resources.  If successful, this would be a major achievement.

These issues are dealt with in considerable detail on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation website where there are informative graphics and data.

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