Green Circular Economy

Kuva: Julius Töyrylä

The first time I heard about the circular economy was about six years ago. I rejoiced in the principle: low-emission didn’t have to mean the total cessation of consumption, but its modification. The partly purposeful contradiction between the economy and sustainability was shrinking. We can continue to be economically active and even add value, but we cannot do it by pretending we have unlimited natural resources in order to do that. We do not. 

The guiding idea of the circular economy is the circulation of materials. When the material circulates and doesn’t end up lying in a landfill after use, our need to use raw materials decreases. Instead of needing more resources, we need better use of resources. We must embrace the principle of wise nature that someone’s waste is someone’s food. In the backyard, this means decomposing yellow autumn leaves into soil from which the new apple tree sprouts in the spring. In the economic system it means the use of parts of an old microwave in the manufacturing of a new one. 

The Greens have their own Green Circular Economy program, which recommends various actions in the construction, forestry, mining, everyday procurement and waste management sectors to promote circular economy. In the construction industry, there may be ways, for example, to set clear circular economy criteria for public construction projects already at the tendering stage and to extend the service life of structures through design. In the mining industry, we can promote the circular economy for example by reforming the Mining Act and demarcating nature reserves outside mining. We could steer everyday consumption in a better direction by reducing the VAT on repair services from 24% to 10%.

Recycling is related to circular economy, but it is only a small part of it. In addition to collecting materials properly, we need to support the service economy, the sharing economy, repair and remanufacturing. When products are easy to disassemble and assemble, they are also easier to repair without having to re-manufacture all parts. As the capital, Helsinki is a natural place to lead the local and regional transition towards circular economy. However, there is also a need for a higher level of regulation, such as clear national targets and financial incentives for more sustainable choices - for both individuals and businesses. The circular economy has enormous potential for job creation, curbing biodiversity loss and consumers financial saving. It is the time to start using the potential systemically.