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#ImagineCircularity: the circular transformation will not be live-streamed

The circular economy is often confused and misperceived as more recycling; it is only one of several circular actions and is often referred to as “the last resort”. True circularity aims to “design out waste”. Photo by Sigmund on Unsplash


To better understand how people around the globe perceive a transformation from a linear take-make-waste economy to a circular refuse-reduce-rethink society, REVOLVE Circular and the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at the Utrecht University will launch #ImagineCircularity on 19 April 2021

VIENNA, Austria, April 14, 2021/ — Systemic change in terms of the way we produce, consume and treat the environment needs to happen live – in our brains, corporate board rooms, and parliaments. In order to better understand how people around the globe perceive a transformation from a linear take-make-waste economy to a circular refuse-reduce-rethink society, the Vienna-based non-profit organization REVOLVE Circular (www.Revolve.media/Circular) and the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at the Utrecht University (https://bit.ly/3tkzrIf) will launch #ImagineCircularity (www.Imagine-Circularity.world) on 19 April 2021 – the first ever survey seeking to understand how people around the globe envision a more circular economy.

The circular economy is still a relatively new paradigm which different stakeholders understand, apply and promote in a different manner. Some also criticise the concept for focusing narrowly on resource challenges and resource efficiency while neglecting environmental and societal concerns. The first global survey on the circular economy entitled ‘Imagine Circularity’ will seek to understand how consumers, producers and product designers perceive the circular economy. The findings shall feed into policy-making processes, influence corporate decision-making, and help change consumption patterns globally.

“Let’s be honest: the necessary transformation from a linear economy obsessed with an economic growth paradigm to a circular and inclusive society will not happen in well-written reports, press releases or in Zoom meetings”, says Sören Bauer, President of the Austrian non-profit organisation REVOLVE Circular. “Fifty years after the US American musician Gil Scott-Heron released ‘The revolution will not be televised’ (https://bit.ly/3dXIdFI), a funky spoken word poem, we pay tribute to him and repeat his bold statement: You have to understand and change your mind before you change the way you live, the way you consume and the way you move ahead. Our claim that the circular transformation will not be live-streamed means that no one will ever be able to capture in zoom, MS Teams meetings or YouTube the systemic change that needs to happen in terms of consumer behaviour, and the way we produce and run the global economy. This change has to happen live – in our brains, corporate board rooms, and parliaments.”

Imagine Circularity has been designed as a survey that introduces each participant to a range of basic concepts related to the circular economy and in turn enhances participants’ circular literacy. As an opinion poll, its results will provide insights on the different understandings and perceptions on the topic across a wide range of stakeholders and countries. The aim is to engage one million participants from around the world in order to produce a representative sample of global views and understandings. Walter Vermeulen from the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands explains: “In our partnership with REVOLVE Circular we provide expertise from many years of sustainability and circular economy research to ensure the global survey is methodologically strong and captures circularity in a holistic manner. In addition to a global report, we hope to be able to produce a range of country, city, and industry reports, as many various partners from different countries are already planning to join us in this global effort. We will also use the survey’s findings for producing scientific evidence on how different stakeholders in various world regions and industries understand and perceive the circular economy globally.” The Copernicus Institute is the main partner of the global survey initiative which will initially be launched in English only. Up till 30 November 2021, partners can join the survey initiative by translating it into their respective language; in addition, they can extend the generic survey and adapt it into a culturally customized version for their respective country.

Jocelyne Landry Tsonang from the Executive Team of the African Circular Economy Network ACEN (www.ACEN.africa) says: “We are very interested in joining this global initiative to find out how people in Africa envisage a circular economy. Our experience shows that there are five main challenges and barriers to a more circular Africa. First and foremost, are the lack of institutional capacity and proper understanding of the concept as many policy-makers have simply not yet grasped the various benefits and the scope of circularity for the continent. Related to that is the misconception that a circular economy is the same as waste management and recycling which are only the last resort: Circularity starts with designing ‘out waste,’ usually referred to as ‘circular design’. A further big worry are regulatory frameworks – in Africa, they either do not exist or are often counterproductive. It will be a major challenge to establish ‘pro-circularity regulations’ in Cameroon, let alone on the continent as a whole”, says the Cameroon-based entrepreneur.” Last but not least, there is the need and the opportunity to embed circular economy education in curricula and practice it in schools & campuses which would enable the younger generation to work towards a circular Africa.”

Circular Economy for Dummies

Imagine Circularity is only one of many efforts around the globe to educate citizens, policy-makers, corporate decision-makers, and others on the opportunities, benefits, and necessity for a different economic model. In the United States of America, Kyle J. Ritchie and Eric Corey Freed have now co-authored the book “Circular Economy for Dummies” (www.CircularEconomyforDummies.com) which will be available as of 27 April. “It is important to acknowledge what I consider a pretty simple truth: We cannot rely on individuals to make the ‘right’ purchasing practices and change their buying behavior without a proper incentive in place. This isn’t to say humans are inherently bad and selfish; I’m simply saying if we could solely rely on the individuals of this world to shape a brighter future, we wouldn’t still be utilizing Styrofoam to keep our $1 coffee hot, despite knowing how detrimental it is as a material”, explains Kyle J. Ritchie who is also Education Sustainable Design Lead at CannonDesign. “From that platform of understanding then, we can accept that the structures of our society must change to incentivize individuals to make better decisions and support the circular management of products and materials. Only political and corporate leaders hold the potential to adjust the transition from linear to circular by providing incentives to the individual. By accepting this, we must then educate our political and corporate leaders on how to properly implement and roll-out those incentives in a way that is not overly disruptive to the current structures in place.”

Partners around the world invited to join

All interested parties are now invited to join REVOLVE Circular and the Copernicus Institute to bring the global opinion poll to their university, city, country or industry. In Italy, Chile and India, several circular economy organisations are already starting to join forces to co-create their respective national version of the survey. Imagine Circularity will go live on 19 April; the early birds’ deadline to join is 14 May, followed by the final deadline of 30 November. Throughout 2021, the original English version will be extended to versions in multiple other languages such as German, Spanish, French, Italian, Polish and other, and the survey will end on 15 January 2021. A global report and several country and industry reports are anticipated for March 2022.

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