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Looking beyond the current take-make-dispose linear extractive industrial model, a circular economy aims to redefine growth, focusing on positive society-wide benefits. It entails gradually decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources, and designing waste out of the system. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural, and social capital. It is based on three principles:

  • Design out waste and pollution
  • Keep products and materials in use
  • Regenerate natural systems

In broader terms, the circular approach is a framework that takes insights from living systems. It considers that our systems should work like organisms, processing nutrients that can be fed back into the cycle—whether biological or technical—hence the “closed loop” or “regenerative” terms usually associated with it.

The Ellen Macarthur Foundation has detailed the Circular economy via a very beautiful video.

Circular economy schools of thought

The circular economy model synthesises several major schools of thought. They include the functional service economy (performance economy) of Walter Stahel; the Cradle to Cradle design philosophy of William McDonough and Michael Braungart; biomimicry as articulated by Janine Benyus; the industrial ecology of Reid Lifset and Thomas Graedel; natural capitalism by Amory and Hunter Lovins and Paul Hawken; and the blue economy systems approach described by Gunter Pauli.

Amsterdam to be fully circular by 2050

Building upon the Dutch national strategy, Amsterdam has committed to becoming fully circular by 2050. It has started the journey to become a circular city with the Circle City in 2015, and has since then started more than 70 pilots in the circular economy.Amsterdam have pioneered a ‘learning by doing’ approach in the circular economy, which has been evaluated in 2017.

Amsterdam is a hotspot for digital technology, circular design and lifetime extension

Digital technology, circular design and lifetime extension are the most important elements for circular employment in the AMA, and thus, form the distinctive feature of the circular economy in the AMA. Furthermore, in line with national trends, the urban centers throughout the AMA provide the largest number of enabling circular jobs, while core circular employment is located within the urban peripheries. You can read the full proposal here.


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