What is the Circular Economy? 

In our current way of producing and selling goods or ‘stuff’, otherwise known as our economy, we use Earth’s natural materials, produce goods, and eventually throw them away as waste.

This process is linear, and one directional. A circular economy is an alternative to a linear economy, where we can keep using our goods and resources within our system to stop producing waste in the first place.

We need to reduce, reuse and recycle rather than waste.

How can we improve the Circular Economy using nature?

Nature has been recycling waste since the Earth began. Plants use the renewable energy from sunlight to make leaves, flowers and fruit that become food for animals, while dead animals are recycled into nutrients that plants use to grow. This is a circular process.

Since humans learnt how to extract resources from rocks we have been using our planet’s resources unsustainably, by using them up without putting them back into the natural systems. We need to learn to reuse resources rather than using them up, we need a circular economy.

diagram showing linear and circular economy

Examples of the circular economy in Devon

Some good examples of the circular economy in action in Devon include reuse shops at Household Waste Recycling Centres where reusable goods are set aside/salvaged for re-use at all in most sites in Devon.

Devon also has 11 community run “Repair Cafes” which help people repair a range of items from hairdryers to bikes to jewellery repairs.

To find out about more reuse projects in Devon such as upcycling, clothe swaps, scrap stores, donating goods and much more visit the reuse page on the Recycle Devon website.

Teaching Resources and Circular Economy Quiz

There are loads of amazing resources available from The Ellen Macarthur Institute to help understand and teach about the circular economy and those on our Circular Economy Resource Box page.

Take a look at the amazing collection of Finnish resources designed for teaching about the circular economy from Sitra.

We also have a resource box developed exclusively to help Devon teachers of Design and Technology GCSE teach about the Circular Economy in Devon. Read more on our D&T Resource Box pages.

Created on By Millie Green
Pile of shoes

Circular Economy Quiz

Test your knowledge of the circular economy.

1 / 11

What is the difference between a circular and linear economy?


2 / 11

True of False, kerbside recycling is an important part of the circular economy.

3 / 11

True or false, recycling packaging conserves natural resources.

Image of woman recycling

4 / 11

True or false, composting waste is not part of the circular economy.

Image of compost heap and pitchfork

5 / 11

True or false, A circular economy is good for the environment but not good for the economy.

Image of card transaction

6 / 11

True or false, if there were no humans, then there would be no landfill.

Worker at landfill site

7 / 11

Select all examples of natural resources used to produce products

Image of a drought

8 / 11

True or false, if we make less stuff, there will be less work for people.

Children making or fixing an electronic device

9 / 11

True or false, in the future we could rent new technology or cars instead of owning them.

Electric car charging

10 / 11

True or false, the circular economy is just another name for recycling.

11 / 11

What are some benefits to a circular economy? (select all correct answers)

Pictographic of Linear Economy (represented by a straight line), Recycling Economy (represented by a line with two circles) and Circular economy (represented by a circular line)

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The average score is 69%