1.1.2 What is circular economy

Course subject(s) Module 1. What is the circular economy?


In this first episode we discuss the main characteristics of the circular economy. Before we get started, we need to describe how we understand the circular economy. Here is our attempt:

linear economy

As the economy grows, we need more raw materials for the production of goods and we produce more waste. This is not a problem as long as the economy is relatively small compared to our natural ecosystem. The natural ecosystem is the source of raw materials and the “sink” for our wastes.

But today, our economies have become so large that we have to question the wisdom of extracting ever more raw materials and dumping more and more waste. This current economy of “take-make-use-dispose” is called the linear economy. It is not a sustainable model.


The Circular Economy, in contrast, aims to radically limit the extraction of raw materials and the production of waste. It does this by recovering and reusing as many of the products and materials as possible, in a systemic way, over and over again. The Circular Economy is a “make/remake – use/reuse” economy.

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Circular Economy by TU Delft OpenCourseWare is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://ocw.tudelft.nl/courses/circular-economy/.
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