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Circular Economy

We need inclusive, nature-positive value chains

© Markus Winkler / WWF Germany

Unsustainable production and consumption are driving climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. We need to address wasteful material and product systems beyond profit and convenience – from upstream design to the end of life of a material or product. When a system or product is designed, we must adopt sustainable, inclusive and "circular" principles in the process that delivers the lowest impact on the planet coupled with benefits for people and nature.

Why does it matter?

Many materials and products are poorly designed, and their lifespans are short-lived. There is minimal consideration of how these material and product value chains impact the environment, communities and the economy. For too long, the focus has been on maximising single-use and convenience items with recycling touted as a catch-all solution. More focus is needed on upstream interventions with re-design of systems and products for retaining them in the economy, such as reuse and sharing, plus reducing production and consumption of single-use products to avoid increasing volumes of waste going to landfill and leaking into nature.

With growing public awareness of the impacts of a linear, extractive and wasteful economy resulting in overburdened landfills and pollution, the status quo needs to change. The circular economy approach focuses on interventions across the lifecycle of materials and products which include policy frameworks, upstream system and product re-design, exploration of alternatives and substitutes, and innovative business models while considering the needs of all stakeholders.

The circular economy is a system-wide approach to guide socio-economic development that emphasises adopting nature-positive practices to enable strong and resilient economies.

Did you know?

In southern Africa, the top three plastic products with the highest leakage into nature are single-use packaging, disposable nappies and textiles from fast-fashion.

© iStock
What is WWF doing?

We are advocating for, and facilitating the transition towards, a just circular economy in South Africa. The aim of the “circularity” ambition is win-win-win – enabling environmental, social and economic gains. Our focus is largely on plastics and single-use products that leak into nature, such as packaging, disposable absorbent hygiene products and synthetic textiles.

What can you do?

Adopt a “less is more” mindset, buy products with less packaging, explore sustainable “reuse and refill” options and support the sharing and second-hand economy.
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Support businesses that sell “circular products” to reduce waste and pollution in nature

© WWF South Africa