| Marie Geneste | Janvier 2020 |


Circular economy


The dustbin

To answer that question simply, let me start with the story of an ordinary object. The dustbin.

The French word for dustbin – poubelle – has an interesting origin. It comes from a 19th century prefect of Paris – Eugene Poubelle – whose name made history after he ordered landlords to provide containers to allow their tenant to sort their rubbish.

The only interesting fact about the English word dustbin history is that it dates back from an era when the only waste coming out of our society was dust.

Decades later, our quest for growth, consumption and convenience has led us to major systemic issues;

  • The creation of mountains of waste and pollution that spread into ecosystems… Leading to a prediction that, by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans (source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation).
  • The shortage of resources to fuel our system.


Moving away from our unsustainable linear model

These are the main limitations of our linear economy where we TAKE resources, to MAKE stuff and then DISPOSE of all sorts of things.

In other words, we extract resources to grow now and clean up our mess later.

The good news is that there is another game-changing model that’s been under the spotlight lately; The CIRCULAR ECONOMY.


What is a Circular Economy?

The Circular Economy is a systemic approach designed to eliminate waste – including pollution and Green House Gas emissions – and maximise the use of resources by returning them to the system in a closed loop.

In practice, it’s about reusing, sharing, repairing and recycling… We can already find some large-scale Circular Economy examples in our daily lives.

  • Food waste composted by councils to feed the local green spaces
  • House or car sharing services such as Airbnb or Get Around
  • Companies such as Biobean using waste such as coffee grounds to make logs or fuel


How does a circular economy work?

The Circular Economy mirrors nature, where nothing is wasted.  In a natural life cycle, organisms process nutrients, feed them back into the system and, at the end of their life, decompose to close the regenerative loop.

Designing or evolving towards a Circular business model requires to revisit business processes and closely collaborate with an organisation’s ecosystem of stakeholders – from suppliers of raw materials to partners, local communities and end users.

The circular economy also opens a wealth of innovative business models.

  • Sharing economy – an example is the Nu Wardrobe, a platform to share clothes
  • Remanufacturing – such as the refurbished electronics sold on backmarket.com.
  • Leasing products vs selling them – see the Library of things which allows people to borrow things that they don’t need to own such a DIY equipment.
  • Recycling – Adidas Parley trainers made out of plastic trash from beaches
  • Repairing/maintaining – like local Repair Cafes where you can drop in to get stuff fixed
  • Reusing – For instance, In London, Elysia Catering make artisan breakfasts & canapes in with local artisans’ surplus produce.


Circular success stories

Globally, there are thousands of Circular Economy initiatives and businesses, many of which have been documented by the Circular Economy Club.

But let me mention some of the most successful ones.

  • Grover, a platform that allows you to rent tech devices such as laptops or phones
  • A thriving example of the Circular Economy applied to the travel industry. Airbnb have demonstrated that home sharing has a significant lower environmental impact than staying at hotels.
  • Zipcar is the world’s leading car sharing network. Since its launch in 2000, the business has been providing on-demand car hire by the hour or the day in hundreds of cities around the globe.
  • Too Good to Go lets you buy quality local food from local stores or restaurants that would otherwise go to waste. The customers buy quality food at discounted price and businesses increase their revenues while generating less waste. The Danish start-up now operates in 12 countries, and is on its way to save 20 million meals a year.


4 reasons why the future has to be Circular

  1. Circular design principles offer a wealth of innovation opportunities for those who want to create, redefine organisations or simply solve business problems.
  2. For businesses, it has a triple bottom line with a positive social, environmental and financial impact; So people and planet also win in the Circular Economy
  3. Then, at a global level, the circular economy addresses the challenge of catering for the needs of a growing population on a planet with finite resources while minimising pollution.
  4. But what makes it a game-changing model is that it allows to increase growth from the use of finite resources, and it’s not me saying this but McKinsey in a 2015 report produced in partnership with the Ellen Mac Arthur Foundation.


Marie Geneste
Marie Geneste is the CEO of The C Collective, a new consultancy helping entrepreneurs scale their circular and sustainable solutions by creating outstanding customer experiences.
She is also a former Circular Economy consultant with the Circulab network.



Learn more about the Circular Economy