Several million tonnes of waste are produced each year, ranging from construction waste, scrap wood and municipal solid waste incineration bottom ash to carbon fiber-reinforced composites and electronic waste. With resources becoming scarcer and sustainability moving up the political agenda, the time has come to move away from our current mostly linear approach to resource use and switch to a circular economy.
A circular economy is the opposite of the "take, make, dispose" model of production that still prevails today. In our current linear or “throw-away” economy, most of the natural resources we use are sent to landfill or incinerated once a product reaches the end of its useful life. Only a small proportion is re-used or recycled. In contrast, a circular economy promotes a renewable or regenerative system of industrial production. Its goal is to minimize the use of resources and the generation of waste and emissions and to make a more efficient use of energy. This can be achieved by slowing, narrowing and closing energy and material loops. Key tools for this purpose include long-lasting design, maintenance, refurbishing, repair, reuse, remanufacturing and recycling.
The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft actively seeks to help shape the transition from today’s primarily linear economy to a circular economy. It does this by conducting research into the necessary systemic, technical and social innovations and the new value creation networks these innovations entail.