What is the circular economy?

To transition to a circular economy, everyone involved needs to understand what a circular economy is. Learn about this economic system where waste is designed out.

The problems of the linear economy

The economy that currently prevails worldwide is linear.

It takes resources, makes goods and quickly wastes them. This take-make-waste pattern is characterised by high levels of raw material extraction, production, consumption and waste. This is polluting and wasteful, and is causing greenhouse gas emissions to spiral upwards.


The linear economy is increasing many risks, such as:


Resource depletion


Global temperature rise


Market volatility


The circular economy is a solution

The circular economy is an economic system where waste is designed out, everything is used at its highest possible value for as long as possible and natural systems are regenerated.

Contrary to linearity, in a circular system, resources are used to their fullest potential, and are continuously reused, refurbished and recycled: ideally, there is no more waste.

The circular economy can:


Reduce greenhouse gas emissions


Save on landfilling costs


Improve material security


Create new livelihood opportunities


Spur local value creation

The key elements of the circular economy

In an effort to shape a common language for the circular economy, Circle Economy does continuous research on the terms and definitions used in practice and in the literature.

Circle Economy has mapped the various terms and definitions used by over 20 organisations—NGOs, government agencies, academia, consultancies and more—and has conducted an in-depth literature review. After interpreting this research, eight key elements emerged that defined the majority of terms linked to the circular economy.



Activities that directly handle product or material flows.


Activities that remove obstacles for core activities.


Learn about the circular economy through a game!

Challenge linearity and adopt the basics of circularity through games. Play the ‘Introduction to the circular economy’ track from Circularity Academy!

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What is a circular city?

Cities play a critical role in fighting climate change and environmental challenges. Learn how cities can use the circular economy to meet their sustainability targets.


Ganbatte helps you explore data-driven insights, solutions, tools and practical examples of the circular economy that can help your city achieve its climate and sustainability goals.

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