As with wider society, here in Cumbria we buy, consume and discard goods in a largely linear way.
So for instance whether this is food, clothes, electricals or furniture, resources are extracted, produced, supplied, consumed, and then often simply disposed of as waste. However all this activity hugely increases our carbon footprint.
Major challenges creating significant waste include disposable products designed and used for only a very short amount of time, food which is never eaten, products which can’t be repaired, materials which can’t be recycled, and excess packaging.
To rapidly cut emissions, we’ll need to move away from our current linear economic model, and adopt a far more circular approach which keeps materials in use for as long as possible.
A circular economy emphasises reusing, repairing, and recycling materials to create a closed-loop system, where our finite resources are used far more efficiently and effectively, and any waste generation is minimised.
Meeting this huge challenge will require strong top-down leadership from government and businesses, pursuing ambitious policies to significantly reduce waste. This will need to combine with shift changes across society in our consumer behaviour towards consumption and waste.
There are many positive benefits of transitioning to a circular economy. As well as cutting waste and emissions, it can also help to save us money, conserve natural resources, protect the environment, increase food security, and improve public health.
Moving to an economic model based on repair and reuse can also stimulate skills training and job growth, creating new economic opportunities for individuals and businesses. There is great potential to innovate in how we design, use, repair and recycle products, minimising any waste generated and the environmental consequences.