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We start the course with a thought experiment to set the scene for learning about the circular economy

Imagine how the phone or computer you are reading this on was produced: raw materials were extracted and processed, then assembled and packaged before being stocked in the store from where you bought it.

And, of course, a great deal of transportation is required between each stage. It is almost a modern miracle to consider the work that goes into every material and component, and across so many geographies, in order to make your machine operate. And yet, when it no longer works, or it becomes obsolete, all of that work is lost. The value added, in terms of labour and energy, is lost forever when the machine becomes scrap.

Now let’s imagine a different scenario. Imagine your phone or computer was designed so that it never became waste: every material, every component, and every fitting would be carefully selected to give the machine a second, third or even fourth life. A scenario where you’d be incentivised to return it to ensure it effortlessly slipped back into the system – where an ecosystem of handlers and re-processors would clean it up and get it back onto the market, or salvage everything of value in order to make the next level version. In this scenario no energy is lost, and no labour is wasted. The embedded value in the product is retained and the often finite raw materials needed to make your product last for longer – reducing the need for new materials.

This quick illustration highlights some of the differences between a linear economy and a circular economy. It is not a complete picture by any means, but over the next 3 weeks we’ll be exploring these differences in more depth.

Over the last 12 years the circular economy has shifted from theory to practice very quickly as businesses and governments realise the potential of the concept to create a thriving economy, which also has huge benefits to the environment and society.

With this acceleration in adoption, particularly within business, there is a risk that we might miss some of the wider aspects of the big picture. So this course has been designed for people who already know something about the circular economy but would like to delve deeper as well as those who are new to the topic.

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Circular Economy: The Big Idea

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