What is the Circular Economy? Explanation of why it is attracting attention


The circular economy is an important concept for building a sustainable future in today’s society.

If we continue with the conventional, linear economy of mass consumption and disposal, we will face a worsening depletion of resources and environmental burden, and we will have to worry about the future. The global trend is toward a shift from a linear economy to a circular economy economy that circulates resources in a sustainable manner.

This article will detail the meaning, principles, business models, and initiatives that can be taken to realize the Circular Economy. In addition, we would like to introduce the various benefits of the circular economy, such as reducing environmental impact, economic benefits, and building a sustainable society.

Meaning of Circular Economy

circular economy
The circular economy is an economic model that makes effective use of resources and minimizes and circulates waste.

In contrast, a linear economy is a conventional economic model in which resources are extracted in large quantities, products are made, and then discarded as waste after use. The current trend in the world is to move from a linear economy to a circular economy.

Each economic model will be presented in detail.

Linear Economy

Linear economy is an economic model that does not take into account the finite nature of resources and discards them as waste once they are used.

The process of resource extraction, product manufacturing, and waste disposal after use is a linear flow in one direction, which means that a lot of energy and costs are involved in waste disposal. Such a linear economic model is said to deplete natural resources and increase the burden on the environment.

Circular Economy

The Circular Economy is an economic model that emphasizes the recycling and reuse of resources. It aims to recycle waste in a sustainable manner in order to make effective use of resources. Specifically, the series of processes from product design to waste disposal are reviewed, and efforts are made to reduce (reduce), reuse (reuse), and recycle (recycle ).

By promoting the recycling of resources, the Circular Economy aims to reduce the burden on the environment and achieve a sustainable society.

Three Principles of the Circular Economy

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s three principles of the circular economy in the U.K. include the following as important

  • Designed to eliminate waste, pollution, etc.
  • Continue to use products and resources
  • Regenerate natural systems

In order to realize “waste- and pollution-free design,” it is important to minimize waste emissions from the product design stage. To realize “continuous use of products and resources,” it is important to extend the life of products and maximize their value and functions. To achieve “regenerating natural systems,” the protection and restoration of the natural environment is a key element.

Difference from 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle)

In contrast to the circular economy, the “3R” (Reduce/Reuse/Recycle/Recycle) are efforts to create a recycling-oriented society. 3R are based on the premise of disposal, while the circular economy approaches waste minimization and resource recycling as an economic model that comprehensively.

The Circular Economy differs from the 3R in that products and services are designed from the design stage so as not to generate waste.

The circular economy is also an important factor contributing to the achievement of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs ). In particular, it is closely related to the following SDGs.

  • SDG 12 “Responsibility to Create Responsibility to Use”
  • SDG 13 “Take concrete action on climate change.”
  • SDG 15 “Let’s also protect the abundance of land.”

Efficient use of resources and minimization of waste in the circular economy are related to SDGs 12 and 15. It is linked to SDG 12 “Responsibility to Create and Use” in terms of promoting sustainable production and consumption, and to SDG 15 “Let’s also protect the abundance of land” in terms of contributing to the protection and restoration of forest and soil ecosystems. It is also related to SDG 13 “Take concrete measures to combat climate change” in that it contributes to combating climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and recycling resources.

The Circular Economy involves the goals set forth by the SDGs to achieve a sustainable society.

Why the Circular Economy is attracting attention

circular economy

Because it can reduce environmental impact.

First, one of the factors attracting attention to the circular economy is the “reduction of environmental impact through resource recycling”.

In the conventional linear economy, excessive use of resources and waste disposal increased the burden on the natural environment. The circular economy, however, reduces the mining of resources as well as the energy and water consumption required for manufacturing, thereby contributing to the reduction of waste and environmental pollution.

Because of the economic benefits.

The Circular Economy has the economic benefit of reducing the use of raw materials and energy and saving costs through the recycling and reuse of resources.

In addition to reducing the costs and risks associated with waste disposal, it can also contribute to economic revitalization by encouraging the creation of new business opportunities and jobs.

Because we can build a sustainable society.

It is hoped that the spread of circular business models such as the circular economy will change the awareness and behavior of society as a whole, leading to the creation of a more sustainable society.

Circular Economy Business Model

circular economy

The circular economy can be extended from a business model of selling off products to a new business model of services. Here are three main business models.


Reuse is a business model that emphasizes the reuse of products and components after they have been used once. The main objective is to repair and maintain the product to extend its life and supply it to the market again as a commodity as long as it remains of use value.

The reuse business model has the effect of extracting sustainable value from products and reducing resource waste.

[Related Articles] Old tableware that had been lying dormant in a warehouse is now being revitalized by coloring it. To be used for breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant.

Recycling (remanufacturing)

Recycling is a business model in which products and parts are collected and reused as raw materials. Collected materials are sorted and separated, and new products and materials are remanufactured through the recycling process.

For example, recycling of plastics and paper would not only prevent resource depletion and reduce waste disposal burdens, but would also contribute to the sustainability of the supply chain.

[Related Article] BONEARTH, the World’s First Fertilizer Made from Discarded Tableware Nikko, a long-established manufacturer of western tableware, commercialized the product.


Sharing is a business model in which a product or service is shared by multiple users. For example, in car and bicycle sharing services, multiple people share the same product or service and use it when needed. Sharing would make it possible to optimize usage time and resource usage.

Sharing is a business model that reflects changing consumer lifestyles by encouraging a paradigm shift from ownership to sharing.

[Related articles】From tableware to private farms. Introducing 7 sustainable subscriptions that can be introduced to hotels and restaurants.

Initiatives that can be taken to achieve a Circular Economy

circular economy
Let’s take a look at what companies and individuals can each do to help realize the Circular Economy.

Initiatives that companies can take

Design and select circular product designs

For companies involved in manufacturing, it is important to consider recycling and reuse from the product design stage. Designs that take into account the effective use of resources and the reuse of waste materials can contribute to the realization of a circular economy. For example, companies could work on designing products that are easy to disassemble and replace parts, and use recyclable materials.

Non-manufacturing companies can encourage the realization of a circular economy by choosing products that take recycling and reuse into account when procuring.

Build cooperative relationships with business partners

It is important to promote a circular economy not only as a single company, but also throughout the supply chain, building cooperative relationships with suppliers and customers.

Efforts should be made to promote the recycling of resources by sharing a series of processes from the source of waste to the reuse of products. Specific initiatives such as launching joint recycling programs and sharing reuse and recycling know-how could be undertaken.

Initiatives that individuals can take

Conserve energy and water

Individuals can also conserve resources by working to conserve energy and water in their own daily lives. For example, they can try to conserve water and electricity to reduce electricity and water consumption, and use energy-efficient appliances and water-saving fixtures. Saving energy and water should lead to more efficient use of resources and reduced environmental impact.

[Related Articles] Reducing both rising utility costs and CO2 emissions. What “energy-saving” actions should restaurants take?

Use flea market apps and recycle stores.

Efforts can be made to reduce waste by selling or donating unwanted goods and clothing through flea market applications and recycle stores.

Purchasing used goods and using leasing services are also effective ways to encourage product reuse. Reusing one’s own unwanted goods would contribute to resource conservation and waste reduction.

Circular economy builds a sustainable society.

The “circular economy” can be said to play an important role in the realization of a sustainable society. It is attracting attention for various aspects, such as reducing environmental impact, providing economic benefits, and creating sustainable business models.

First, we would like to contribute to the preservation of the global environment and the realization of a sustainable society by promoting the recycling of resources, starting with what we can do, little by little.

[Related Article]


[Reference Site] Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry: About the type of recycling-oriented business activities
[Reference Site] reference: Ministry of the Environment, “Section 2: Transition to a Circular Economy.”
[Reference Site] Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry: Circular Economy Vision 2020 (Overview)
[Reference Site] Ministry of the Environment: Guidance on Disclosure and Dialogue to Promote Sustainable Finance in the Circular Economy

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