The way we consume has been putting significant pressure on patterns of demand on finite raw materials and resources, turning it into an unsustainable way of living. With these consumption levels, it will not be possible to maintain simultaneous economic growth and environmental / social well-being. As the finite resources supplies are rapidly being depleted, the economic value of raw materials will likely increase, and this will put financial stress on prices as well. From this perspective, keeping the materials longer in the economy could deliver significant benefits.

From this perspective, keeping the materials longer in the economy could deliver significant benefits.  For example, reutilizing the materials could lead to reduction in CO2 emissions up to 33% by means of lower embedded emissions in products, which would allow GHG mitigation at lower costs compared to other strategies.[2]

Recent international policy developments such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Paris Agreement and the EU Raw Materials Initiative signal that a new way of economic model is on the way. The way we do business, produce and consume will be changing permanently. The regulations and applications will also need to adapt.

The most popular approach to this new way of economic model is circular economy. We start seeing more headlines covering circular economy, hearing more of the term and see companies adopting the approach. But what does circular economy really entail?

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s definition, “Looking beyond the current "take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design”[3], which means the circular economy understanding is based on maintaining the overall sustainability and well-being of the said system. In other words, the methods of production and consumption continuously feed the system, utilizing the end-products as inputs and vice versa. This method of reusing creates a circular momentum.

Along with reusing, circular economy model is shaped through 3 main principles - which are: reduce, reuse, recycle:

Reshaping our consumption patterns and reducing our usage of resources is the first step towards changing the linear economy model. Then comes reutilizing already existing and available resources. This involves R&D and creative alternative ways of thinking of production/consumption processes. The final principle is to transform the materials through recycling, which also feeds back reutilization.

As the concept of circular economy is slowly evolving in Turkey, we see regulations and applications are already on their way in the European Union (EU) region. The EU has announced its circular economy package at the beginning of this year in which the Union adopts various measures such as a plastics strategy which aims that plastic packaging to be recyclable by 2030, a monitoring framework on progress towards a circular economy and a report on critical raw materials and the circular economy. There have also been previous strategies and action plans involving raw materials & plastics and the industry shows a firm commitment to advance the circular economy model to the next level. 

Recently, the term has become a buzzword in Turkey as well. We see the most popular applications to be industrial symbiosis pilot studies and waste management/recycling projects. NGOs and academia are getting more involved in the subject, forming working groups and institutes. However, in order for circular economy to be a permanent part of economic growth in the country, there is a need for scaling up the pilot projects to a national level. For this to happen, there should be dedicated and oriented action from both private and public players.

[2] Ibid