Transitioning from linear flow to a circular economy
Early industrialization was based primarily on a linear approach to resource use. As resource availability has declined and the cost of raw material extraction has increased, alternative approaches based on a circular flow of materials and energy have emerged. The increasing demand for affordable materials spurred by industrialization led entrepreneurs to develop businesses focused on recovering materials from various sources of scrap, by-products, and wastes. Recycling was a highlight throughout World War II as financial constraints and significant material shortages made it necessary for countries to reuse goods and recycle materials. The unfavorable economics associated with some recycled materials have become more challenging recently. Over the past several decades, a remanufacturing industry has emerged where used products are taken back, reusable components are salvaged and refurbished, and valuable materials are recovered. The recycling and remanufacturing systems described above can prevent waste by creating a circular flow of resources for multiple life-cycles.