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‘Circular Economy’ of re-use can avert crisis

Our economy is based upon the linear economy model, a system established when natural resources had little risk of exhaustion and our wastes easily disposed of conveniently out of sight and out of mind. As our numbers grew, the resource formula shifted in both the limits of the finite resources available and the ability of the environment to absorb the waste we create in this single pass system.

In the 1930s plastics were discovered. They now represent a global crisis in marine debris, in floating garbage everywhere on Earth and in landfills, closing because they can handle no more waste.

Most communities have begun to embrace recycling to one degree or another, but the “Circular Economy” entails a full implementation of a circular path of use, one in which goods and materials are re-used, re-cycled and re-purposed.

This is radical change to our wasteful habits and the way raw materials are used and re-used. But it is a necessary course change for our human society, which has reached a population count that could deplete or pollute the world’s critical natural resources within many of our lifetimes, and certainly within the lifespan of the next generation.

This has resulted in an international movement to implement a global circular economic paradigm shift before it is too late.

The question for Connecticut is whether we are ready for this transition. There is no question that we are moving towards this destination in our transition to the re-use economy. But do we have the capacity, the knowledge and the vision to steer our community to this new sustainable destination? Or will we wait to be on the precipice of disaster before finally responding?

The reason that this global movement is happening is that if we don’t make this essential course change there may not be a future for our communities as we know them. That this is an inevitable result of our now truly dangerous unenlightened path forward and the burden of supporting a global population of 10 billion humans on a planet capable of supporting a little over 10 percent of that number naturally.

In the end, this new circular economic model bodes well in a more robust, sustainable, resilient future for Connecticut with the potential to eliminate much of the waste and the burden that the human race now places on every other race on our crowded, resource-constrained planet.

Brian Braginton-Smith is the executive director of the Lewis Bay Research Center, a nonprofit engaged in research of coastal ecosystem non-point source pollution and the impact of development on estuaries, bays and the ocean. It is based on Cape Cod, Mass.




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