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Circular economy: what it is



Circular economy, an economic system in which ideas of regeneration circulate. Of recycling, of reuse. Many "re" to understand and select so that they are not just prefixes that make virtuous daily verbs filling the mouth of those who do not know in practice what to do, where to put their hands, how to apply noble principles to a world in which concrete needs are make you feel. And how.

L'circular economy it is not only a theory of an economic system, which we will see, but also practical applications, first of all, by reputation, at this moment, in Italy, Expo Milan 2015. But it is by no means the only one, nor the best, nor the last: I hope so for all of us.

Circular economy: what it means

L'Circular economy it is an economic system designed to be able to regenerate itself by playing with two types of material flows, the biological ones, capable of being reintegrated into the biosphere, and the technical ones, destined to be revalued without entering the biosphere.

Posing as an alternative to the classic linear model, thecircular economy promotes a different conception of the production and consumption of goods and services, which passes for example through the use of renewable energy sources, and focuses on diversity, in contrast with standardization and blind consumerism. It is explicit in the supporters ofcircular economy a critique of the supremacy of money and finance, so much so as to want to change the parameters for measuring GDP by considering less money and more other, “circular”, 360-degree values.

Circular economy: why circular

The name of "circular economy”Derives from the mechanisms present in some living organisms in which nutrients are processed and used, to then be reintroduced into both the biological and technical cycle. Economic systems according tocircular economy, should imitate this concept of "closed loop" or "regenerative".

Among the various specific approaches there are also theindustrial ecology and the blue economy, others will be born and are already being born, the idea itself, ofcircular economy, was born in 1976 when it appears in a report presented to the European Commission, entitled “The Potential for Substituting Manpower for Energy” by Walter Stahel and Genevieve Reday. The practical applications ofcircular economy however, they actually appeared on modern systems and industrial processes only in the 1970s.

Circular economy: objectives

Since it was born, thecircular economy pursues the same objectives by adapting them to the constantly evolving reality in which it remains and is inherited from generation to generation as an idea and ideal. The main objectives of thecircular economy are the extension of the life of products, the production of long-lasting goods, reconditioning activities and the reduction of waste production. In summary, thecircular economy aims to sell services rather than products.

Circular economy in the waste sector

According to thecircular economy waste is "food", it is nutritious, so in a sense it does not exist. If we mean a product as an assembly of biological and technical components, then it must be designed in such a way as to fit perfectly within a cycle of materials, designed for disassembly and re-proposition, without producing waste. Respectively, the biological components in one circular economy they must be non-toxic and can be simply composted. The technical ones - polymers, alloys and other artificial materials - will in turn be designed to be used again, with the minimum expenditure of energy.


In a world wherecircular economy we reason by favoring the logic of modularity, versatility and adaptability, so that each product is of longer duration, made and even beforehand designed to be updated, adjusted, repaired. A sustainable design in name and in fact.

Circular economy: the legacy of Expo Milan

The attention paid to separate collection is just one of the elements that make Expo Milano 2015 an example of circular economy applied in an excellent way to a great event. From recent research the event held from May to October 2015 in Milan won the sustainability challenge and has been awarded numerous and important certifications on the environmental management of the event.

A number that appeals to those who support thecircular economy it is 67% of separate waste collection achieved on average in the six months of the Expo: better than the London 2012 Olympic Games, which recorded 62% of separate waste and only one certification for the environmental management of the event.

A number "does not make spring" and does not even do circular economy, but Expo Milano 2015 has shown that it wants to change things and bequeath a different logic also in the particular attention to the energy saving, in the efficient management of waste, in attention to non-waste. And then, perhaps the real novelty and at the same time the real key to success, the involvement of visitors, in recycling, but in general in a logic of circular economy. At least we asked ourselves the question of how to make it, when and why.

Visitors were able to be part of the Expo challenge and experience the results, walking around a site where green, water, energy and lighting, materials and mobility systems, they were all designed to be as “green” as possible. As far as greenery is concerned, 20% of the site is green ("50,000 square meters with 12,000 trees, 85,000 shrubs, and 150,000 herbaceous essences), with a lot of water circulating in the perimeter channel and in the groundwater, as well as in the cooling systems for irrigation designed with technological solutions a minimum waste from a circular economy perspective.

Without forgetting the 30 water houses that delivered over 9 and a half million liters of water, and the 11 constructed wetlands to purify the surface water of first rain. The lights of Expo were mainly lighting bodies LED to high energy efficiency and in the six months it opened, 47 GWh of electricity was consumed.

And now? Will continue to run this example of circular economy? Starting from the attention to the choice of materials with a lower impact, from a "circular economy" perspective, Expo 2015 SpA, consistently with the National Waste Prevention Program (PNPR) which provides for specific waste prevention and reduction objectives, is implementing the plan for the reuse of assets at the end of the event. Where it is not possible, the sending to the recycling of materials that so far have been objects and artifacts admired all over the world, in Milan.

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