The Origin and Development of Circular Economy

Source:Wasion group Author:admin Date:2012/8/6 10:51:46

The idea of circular economy can be traced back to the 1960s when environmental protection rose. In 1962, Rachel Carson, an American ecologist, published Silent Spring, in which she pointed out the threats the nature and human beings faced. The term, circular economy, was coined by Kenneth Boulding, an American economist. It refers to transforming the traditional linear economic growth that relies on resource consumption into one that depends on eco-resource recycling throughout the whole process, from resource input, business production, product consumption to waste disposal, in the big system consisting of people, natural resources and science & technology. The “spaceship earth theory” proposed by Boulding can be seen as an early representative of circular economy. According to him, the earth, like a spaceship flying in the universe, has to consume its own limited resources to survive, and will eventually perish like a spaceship if we do not develop resources in a reasonable manner. The spaceman economy requires a brand new outlook on development: first of all, we must transform the “growing” economy in the past to a “stock” one; secondly, we need to replace the traditional “consumption economy” with a maintenance economy; thirdly, we need to develop an economy with welfare amount and abandon the one that only stresses production; fourth, we should develop a circular economy that will not lead to resource depletion, environment pollution and ecological disruption, one that can recycle materials, to replace the one-way economy in the past.

After 1990s, developing knowledge economy and circular economy became two major trends in the international community. The concept of circular economy was introduced to China in the 1990s. Since then, its research and practices in circular economy have further developed.

The German concept of circular economy was introduced in 1998 and 3R principles (recycle, reuse and reduce) became the core of circular economy; in 1999, the development model of circular economy was integrated from the perspective of sustainable production; in 2002 the significance of developing circular economy was recognized from the aspect of emerging industrialization; in 2003 circular economy was included in the Scientific Outlook on Development and the development strategy of dematerialization was defined; in 2004, China proposed to energetically develop circular economy at municipal, regional and national levels.