Last Sunday, nearly 90% of Zurich citizens and all political parties involved agreed to the idea of integrating a circular economy into the canton’s constitution.
Out of the twenty-six Swiss cantons, Zurich will be the first to follow and adopt a circular economy in its constitution; create closed material loops and improve resource efficiency. By doing so, Zurich positions itself as the vanguard for spurring momentum towards a more sustainable economy with more opportunities for economic development, improvements in social welfare and environmental regeneration.
According to Circular Economy Switzerland, circular economy principles adopt a range of nature-based, social and industrial solutions to counteract global warming and strengthen society’s adaptive capacity. In essence, the principles of a circular economy repudiate the current ‘produce-use-dispose’ linear economic model dominating all developed countries, including Switzerland.
The immense repercussions following the linear model of the economy have meant that Switzerland and other nations have, over recent years, sought to integrate more circular practices into their business models, governmental legislations and across individual or community scales.
In 2020, for example, a large majority of the Swiss National Council made efforts to foster circularity at a nation-scale by embarking on an initiative to synthesise several other separate circular economy interventions proposed several years ago. It invited a platform for promoting the concept in Switzerland to safeguard natural resources and improve resource efficiency.
It begs the question, has it been successful?
Switzerland, with its vast supplies of raw materials, generates an extraordinary amount of waste. Within this decade, the amount of waste each Swiss citizen generates has tripled to a 712kg average each day. The average Ethiopian citizen, for comparison, generates 0.45kg per day.
Whilst the amount of waste generated is of great concern, Switzerland has integrated extensive recycling systems over recent years meaning that nearly half of what is thrown away is recycled.
Over the past fifty years, the increasing rates of household rubbish paralleled with growing rates of household waste separation. Between 2018 and 2020, household recycling has increased sevenfold thus closing material loops for plastic, glass, paper et Cetra.
Further, Switzerland prohibited the burying of rubbish at landfills meaning that whatever is not recycled is incinerated to generate energy for a closed loop in energy generation and production.
Whilst recycling is a necessary component of the circular economy, it is not the only effective or most important way to pursue its principles.
The circular economy involves numerous tactics understood by the ‘re’ preposition tagged in the illustration below.
Adaptive policy developments, progressive technological advancements and committed public participation are also all-important components along this cycle which may enable or hinder the integration of the circular economy.
Whilst Switzerland’s recent efforts for pursuing a circular economy are imperative for handling the many global issues faced today, public and governmental authorities need to address other factors underlined across the spectrum of re’s. Only then will the nation continue to represent one of the first Swiss cantons which have successfully integrated a circular development pathway.
A circular economy has immense potential and represents a crucial solution to contemporary challenges of drastic resource depletion, inefficiencies of resource utilisation and waste production that pollutes our systems and harms both health and the economy.
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