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Circular economy for Dummies

Circular Economy & Decarbonization

Materials management, including production, consumption and disposal of materials, products and infrastructure, contributes a major share of global greenhouse gas emissions — up to two thirds by some accounts (UNDP, 2017).

Greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced by making material flows more efficient and maintaining the utility and value of materials and products for as long as possible. (Source:

The following video gives a simple explanation of Circular Economy and how it can be achieved.

A circular economy is thus indispensable in reducing such emissions by changing and upgrading the way we design, produce and use goods.  According to the ADEME (French Environment and Energy Management Agency), circular economy can be defined as follows:

An economic system of exchange and production which, at all stages of the product’s life cycle (goods and services), aims to increase efficient use of resources and reduce the impact on the environment while developing the well-being of individuals. It’s about doing more and better with less’’.

The 3-R Approach

Circular economy is often based on the 3-R approach, illustrated by the figure below.

The Circular Economy concept and its 3R-principle promote a transition of the economic growth mode from a linear model of resource-product-waste to a circular model of resource-product-waste- (reused or regenerated) resource as shown in the following figure.

Features of the linear and circular models (Source:

The way Circular Economy enables Decarbonization is that its cyclical and regenerative path helps reducing the dependency on raw materials extraction, import and exploitation since used materials will be recycled and reintegrated in the production chain.

Circular Economy also helps reducing waste generation, energy use and environmental emissions by extending products life span through implementing a culture of reuse, repair, refurbishment and remanufacturing.
So, Circular Economy goes beyond just recycling, it is actually an efficient (re-discovered ?) way of resource use, product design, processing and manufacturing at an industrial level. It is also a sustainable and responsible consumption model at consumer’s level.

The figure below shows different elements that play an important role in the Circular Economy cycle.

important Circular Economy elements (Source:


Circular Economy strategies and solution for GHG emissions reduction by lifecycle stage

The following table summarizes the different phases and their associated economy actions (Source:

Overview of in-scope circular economy actions by lifecycle stage

Circular Economy activities impact on GHG emissions reduction in various sectors

Potential emissions reductions are shown in the table below (Source:

Circular Economy activities impact on GHG emissions reduction in different sectors
Circular Economy strategies and solution for GHG emissions reduction in the automotive sector

Deloitte (2016) examined circular economy strategies in the automotive sector, which aim at increasing material efficiency through more refurbishment, remanufacturing and recycling.

Strategies and solution for GHG emissions reduction in the automotive sector


Circular Economy production system example from Serge Ferrari’s group

An independent study carried out by the Evea design office shows that the manufacturing of bio-based roof supports made from recycled fiber Texyloop makes it possible to reduce greenhouse gas emissions linked to the production of infrastructure by 34%.

Serge Ferrari’s production system

Acknowledgment : This Section was prepared using material gathered and synthesized from Internet Sources by Nassima MOUMNI (Ingénieur Polytechnique Alger).