Conventional economic systems were mainly built around linear principles where resources were extracted, transformed, distributed, and eventually disposed of. This principle can be mitigated with recycling mechanisms where discarded resources can reinputted into the manufacturing process. Most economic systems have recycling mechanisms, particularly when it is cost-effective.
The emergence of circular economic principles aims at a more comprehensive closed-loop system with several feedback mechanisms. It requires an adaptation of linear and recycling principles with a focus on:
- Product design. Products can be designed with a long life cycle in mind, with options to be repaired, upgraded, or remanufactured.
- Product use. A product can go through multiple life cycles, switching consumers through sharing, reselling, or refurbishing.
- Recycle. A conventional approach where, at the end of a product life cycle, its materials will be recovered for other uses.
The goal is to try to minimize the importance of procurement and disposal by ensuring that materials are circulated within the economic system.