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What's the Difference between Circular Economy and Sustainability ?

09.02.2023 5 min read

What's The Difference Between Circular Economy And Sustainability ?

Distinguishing Circular Economy and Sustainability

The strain on the environment is rising due to the rising global population and resource demand. Traditional theories of economic activity are centered on the "take-make-dispose" method, a linear model that ignores high costs to the economy, the environment, and society.

On the other hand, the circular economic model concentrates on the five phases of a product or service's lifecycle. These five phases include design, manufacturing, consumption, waste disposal, and treatment of secondary materials. It offers a new, holistic approach that is cost-effective, environmentally friendly and creates new markets.

By 2030, it is anticipated that the circular economy will have saved up to $138 billion for the Gulf Cooperation Council itself. The UAE is trying to expedite the deployment of circular economic principles, ensuring that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are achieved, and that sustainability is practiced throughout the economy.

However, it is essential to mention that while sustainability practices are the key to achieving a circular economy, sustainability and a circular economy cannot be used interchangeably. The difference between circular economy and sustainability definitions makes them two entirely separate concepts.

What Is the Main Difference between Circular Economy and Sustainability ?

The terms circular economy and sustainability are frequently used interchangeably, which sadly causes confusion and lessens the significance and value of the actions associated with each.

Take the Brundtland Report's vision for sustainability as its guiding principle: It says that sustainable development is growth that satisfies the demands of the present without affecting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This definition encompasses all actions or procedures that aim to realize this objective.

However, as you move from the vision to the realization, the area covered by the umbrella fills up. The concept of sustainability is rooted in and concentrated on the biosphere.

Although it is biased in favor of biological ecosystems, sustainability emerged from the fields of ecological and environmental research, which provided it with the comprehensive, systems-based perspective essential to the success of initiatives in this area.

There are circular systems here, including the water cycle, nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle, and even complete ecosystems, which adds to the ambiguity around what exactly could be "circular." Irrespective of what we do, water, food, and other elements in this area will cycle.

The technosphere is an artificial construct created to transform natural resources for human consumption beyond the basic survival needs of water and food; it is the center of and the foundation of the practice of circularity. Circularity and sustainability are distinct due to intentional system design.

Since it does not occur naturally, cycling elements in the technosphere need to be incorporated into the design. This lack of cycling is addressed by circularity and the circular economy; the economy also designates a distinct area "under the canopy" for how to manage the shift.

The biosphere and the technosphere are not entirely separate from one another, and elements of one have been modified to address problems in the other.

We have "sustainable" tags in the Circular Economy for projects that include aspects of both circularity and sustainability.

What Makes a Sustainable Economy Different From a Circular One ?

The difference between circular economy and sustainability may not be evident to some people as they are often marketed as two sides of the same coin. It may come as a surprise, but a circular economy differs from a sustainable economy, and specific sustainability initiatives may not even be considered circular.

A circular economy strategy emphasizes lowering material life cycle impacts, cutting back on the use of dangerous materials, and separating the usage of materials from economic progress. But it does more than recycle.

The average resident of the UAE consumes 94 kg of plastic annually, which is anticipated to rise. Plastic does not "simply go away," so this is a huge problem. It persists and takes a very long time to deteriorate. Our landfills are not the only place for plastic garbage. Every year, an enormous amount makes its way into our oceans.

We must take immediate action to stop the accumulation of plastic debris in our seas and prevent potential harm to marine life, our economy, and our health. To do this, we must abandon the "throw-away" mentality of today and transition to a circular economy that is more sustainable.

To reduce waste and harmful effects on the environment and broader society, resources in a circular economy are made to be reused and preserved within the economy.

While circularity helps make the world more sustainable, not all sustainability efforts also promote circularity. In contrast to sustainability, which generally pertains more to individuals and the economy, circularity concentrates on resource cycles.

Our existing "take-make-dispose" paradigm, which presupposes an unlimited supply of resources, leads to massive resource waste. A circular economy, on the other hand, is a sustainable, reusable system.

Numerous companies worldwide have started to change their business practices to support a circular economy. The initiative can tackle some of our most critical economic and environmental problems as it grows in size.

In line with this, the "UAE's Circular Economy Policy" was approved in January 2021. The policy is a comprehensive framework that outlines the UAE's goals for sustainable governance and effective use of natural resources by implementing consumption and manufacturing methods and techniques. The strategy strives to eliminate waste, protect current and future generations' quality of life, and consume as few natural resources as possible.


We can make positive strides in the right way as we become more mindful of safeguarding resources for the next generation and more sensitive to people and the environment. We can reduce supply chain waste through our decisions.

We can reduce the future impact on the environment and ecological footprint by eliminating waste and preserving natural resources by being conscious of the principles driving sustainability and the circular economy.

One of them is proper waste management. RECAPP can help you to dispose of waste safely and adequately for a sustainable future for the UAE by providing relevant services. You can start now by downloading the app and recycle at home but also at your office with the RECAPP  Business solution.

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