COVID-19 recovery and the Circular Economy
To kick start this blog, I would first like to talk with you about the “Circular Economy” and its applicability to a future COVID-19 recovery plan.
We’re all well aware, by now, of what COVID-19 is – the worldwide health emergency, the dislocating impact of the pandemic on global growth and sales figures, the chronic strain on the healthcare sector – but what about the long-term impact of the virus? What solutions might augur a full and successful recovery in the post-pandemic era?
One thing alone is certain in these times of generalised uncertainty.
Whatever the response, whatever option we avail ourselves of as a society, it cannot be a return to the ‘status quo ante’. The failed model of trickle-down economics and unsustainable consumption, inherited from the technocratic financial globalisation of the 1980s, is yesterday’s tired old shibboleth. A new zeitgeist must be secured for the radically changing times we find ourselves in. This is the 2020s decade and we must think according to the needs of the 2020s, not the 2010s or noughties.
Just as there was a world ‘pre-pandemic’, there must now be one ‘post-pandemic’.
In this way, COVID-19 represents both a grave historic turning point in itself and a portend of the greater challenges yet to come throughout the course of this century: from the ecological disasters facing us in a warming world to the technological and social upheavals of the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution (namely, the rise of AI and automation). It is time to take stock of where we’re at versus where we’d like to be in the decades ahead.
Reflecting on the Status Quo
Let’s begin by taking a close look in the mirror and reflecting on the state of our economy. Simply put, what we have right now – in essence – is a kind of “throwaway” culture and attitude to the use of resources, as part and parcel of our extractive industrial model.
This throwaway culture, with its ethic of “take-make-dispose”, is but the symptom of a deeper malaise – the structural inadequacy of our “linear economy” itself: which takes resources, makes them into things to sell and then disposes of the products at the end of their life in a glut of consumer waste.
In their rush to be at the vanguard of what is ‘new’ and ‘unused’ – the accumulation of more and more disposable goods – companies in the linear economy become willing accomplices in one of the greatest scandals of our age. The 8 million tons of plastic waste that pollute our oceans every year, comprising 80% of all marine debris, is a case in point.
Companies sell us an ever-increasing amount of ‘stuff’ in an endlessly increasing layer of plastic packaging which cannot be easily recycled; with the ultimate consequence being environmental degradation and unquantifiable harm to our global commons.
How long can this go on? The late author and public speaker Alan Watts once said: “The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance”. History doesn’t tend to reward or look kindly upon those too timid to ‘take the plunge’ and respond with creativity and boldness to the challenges posed by a monumental crisis. And in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, we can say with confidence, “The Times They Are a-Changin”. And so, we too must change and adapt with them – without looking back.
Shifting to a Circular Economy
This is where the “circular economy” comes into perspective, as the most viable horizon in a post-COVID-19 era. Instead of “take-make-dispose”, how about a new mantra and social ethic? Let’s call it the “Three Rs” formula: “Reduce, Reuse and Recycle”.
Where the old linear economy ‘takes’ finite resources for consumption, the circular economy reduces the use of virgin resources and the exposure of private enterprise to volatile raw materials. Where the old linear economy ‘makes’ these resources into disposable products for sale in a throwaway market, the circular economy reuses products with high quality to prevent them from becoming wasteful and polluting. Where the old linear economy simply ‘disposes’ of used products to make room for the production and sale of as many new commodities as possible, the circular economy recycles used materials and products or converts products into useful services. In the circular economy conservation is the raison d’etre, not inefficient consumption.
Hunt Vintage has been founded to help lead that change. We believe in the benefits of shifting to a circular economy. One that extends beyond the economy and into the natural environment. By designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating rather than degrading natural systems, the circular economy represents a powerful contribution to achieving global climate targets.
Working with Hunt Vintage on your interior projects and the sourcing of items contributes to our aim of supporting the development of a more circular economy. One where, together, we design out waste and pollution, ensure the lifespan of beautifully crafted items by keeping them in use, and by helping to regenerate natural systems.
Help start the conversation by joining Hunt Vintage in our mission to Keep Products and Materials In Use.