The Circular Economy Diagram Explained

Posted by Larry Burton on Feb 29, 2020 11:00:00 AM

The circular economy diagram is a visual representation of an economic model that could be important for American businesses moving forward.

Although we have relied on a “take, make and dispose” model since the dawn of the industrial revolution, globally industries are facing a major challenge. Resource depletion is a legitimate concern as commonly used resources such as natural gas, phosphorous and even water are approaching distressing levels. 

A circular economy diagram illustrates the restorative or regenerative properties of a model that redefines growth and focuses on keeping materials at their highest value and continuously in use.  

Below we’ll explore how its design illustrates the circular economy approach, how the circular economy applies to industry, what it looks like in practice and how this concept can impact your company.

 

How The Circular Economy Is Designed

 

Although there are several diagrams of the circular economy out there, they all have one thing in common … Each version is circular in design. 

The circular economy is designed to be regenerative. In other words, it designs waste and pollution out of a system while keeping products and materials in use. 

As shown below, many companies operate under a take-make-dispose approach that a traditional linear economy business model offers. 

 

circular-economy-diagram

 

This current method of consumption hurts economic growth. Companies continually face unpredictable raw material prices and increased costs because of strained resources.

Circular economies, on the other hand, embrace a make-use-return approach. This circular design keeps materials and products in use indefinitely, as well as eases the burden on natural resources.

 

How The Circular Economy Applies To Industry

 

The rising costs of raw materials, increased competition globally and continuously changing regulations present challenges to today’s manufacturers. Because of this, manufacturers are looking for more sustainable means of optimizing existing processes. 

In industry, waste is one of the greatest environmental issues. More companies are beginning to look at the impact their waste has not only in their community, but as part of their financial structure as well. 

If your company is a regular waste generator, a circular economy offers a more sustainable approach to managing your raw materials and your waste. 

Many companies are taking advantage of closed loop recycling, for example, as a way of incorporating more sustainability into their waste management practices. Closed loop recycling keeps materials at their highest utility and value by indefinitely recycling the material without degradation of properties. 

This is in contrast to open loop recycling, which delays the disposal of materials by manufacturing goods and spent materials into new raw materials. Fuel blending is a widely-used example of open loop recycling in industry because spent materials are converted into a fuel source for a different manufacturing process.

 

How The Circular Economy Looks In Practice

 

circular economy diangramTemarry Recycling, based in San Diego, operates a recycling facility in Mexico that embraces the concept of zero waste. Showcasing remarkable results, Temarry’s TSDF facility is the perfect example of a circular economy in action.

Using a closed-loop process, Temarry takes an existing physical product - industrial solvents - and recycles them with useful waste byproduct. The make-use-return approach to a circular economy looks like this:

  • A waste to energy (WTE) process converts high BTU organic solids to steam to be used as energy on-site. The use of solvent distillation then takes the steam from WTE as energy to power the recovery stills. 
  • Through distillation, spent solvents are re-manufactured and sold back into industry for their original solvent properties. 
  • Temarry’s facility also extracts usable water from industrial hazardous wastes that include acids, bases, coolants, oily water and latex paint. Treated water is used on-site for industrial needs, including the waste to energy equipment and a cooling tower onsite. 

By investing in these types of technologies, companies can incorporate the circular economy into their waste management processes and improve their overall sustainability practices.

 

How The Diagram Impacts Your Company

 

Incorporating the concepts behind the circular economy into your sustainability plan could significantly impact your operations in several positive ways. In fact, a book by Accenture Strategy estimates that by 2030, the circular economy could generate $4.5 trillion of additional economic output globally.

Applying these sustainable concepts to your business can result in:

  • Reduced costs through more efficient operations
  • Enhanced conservation of resources
  • Improved image based on research that shows consumers buy from sustainable companies

West Coast companies that transport their hazardous waste to Temarry’s TSDF facility in Mexico can also expect to see a reduction in their carbon footprint. That’s because when companies send their hazardous waste to fuel blending facilities instead, that waste is then transported across the country to Kansas or Arkansas. This transportation alone can produce more than 1,500 kg of carbon dioxide.

Implementing a circular economy into your waste management plan is a viable and smart option for increasing your company’s level of sustainability. Not only can your company benefit from the cost savings and improved image that comes from applying the circular economy concepts to your waste management practices, but your company can also place itself on the leading edge of change and forward thinking. 

 

Are you Recycling or Fuel Blending

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