Each and every one of us has bought, sold, resold, rented or shared our belongings, clothes, car, or home on dedicated platforms such as eBay, Vinted or Back Market… So, each and every one of us has already taken part in the circular economy. Let’s start by reminding ourselves what the circular economy is: It’s an economic model that aims to reduce the waste of natural resources and environmental impact by creating a continuous cycle of reuse and regeneration of materials.
Circular economy : Areaction topurchasing power dropor an backgroundtrend ?
What are the benefits of a circular economy ?
66%* of French, Spanish, and Portuguese people have already used thecircular economy. (*According to the CSA institute for Oney). And this is hardly surprising. It’s a more practical, faster, and freer way of consuming. And much more besides… It’s also a strong gesture, and act. Defending the responsible economy (the circular economy being one way of expressing responsible consumption). And in these times of inflation, it even becomes a virtuous circle because it protects access to goods that would otherwise be unaffordable. Smartphones, tablets, and other technological products are a perfect example. Most of them are dropped by their users in favour of a more recent or the latest model.
This is why these devices are bought back from their owners to be repaired (if necessary), before being repackaged and returned to the marketplace. A smartphone, for example, can be resold for between 20% and 50% less than a new version. And in these times of inflation, the lower classes also have the opportunity to equip themselves. Facing the climate and environmental crisis, the circular economy thus represents a strong commitment to greater ecological sobriety. Repairing, recycling, refurbishing… are all civic acts to reduce our collective impact on the planet.
HOW THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY BECAME A TREND
It used to be called the “second-hand” market. It meant selling, buying, or renting things that other people didn’t want any more, that had already been used or were worn out, anything that was no longer covered by warranty or that hadn’t been produced recently. As far as users were concerned, it was people who couldn’t afford to buy new who rented or bought ‘second-hand’ from associations (such as Emmaüs) or at local events (such as Lille’s infamous “braderie”). At least, that’s how we saw it. But that was before!
Because today, that idea is a thing of the past. Choosing “second hand” is: Economically smart! Because you can spend much less on the same product. Ecologically preferable! Because you can use a product well beyond its service life. Emotionally impactful! Because each object tells a story and tells our own lives Socially rewarding! Because we all have a duty to be eco-responsible citizens. We’re much more than just resellers now. By reselling, we are making a living. We’re becoming savvy. Heroes of sustainable development, accessing better quality eco-designed products and guaranteeing better traceability of food products (in particular). Thanks to the establishment of short distribution channels that contribute to environmental and social development (health, jobs, local economy, etc.), we are now able to rapidly reap significant benefits.
And it’s not just eco-citizens who are getting involved! Older industries and their major brands are also moving towards greater circularity in their products. And while the circular economy may have had a “cheap” or even “second-hand” image for some brands, those that sell image have also integrated second-hand into their offer. And today, it’s not uncommon to be able to buy, at up to half price, eveningwear from major fashion brands, jewellery or even luxury watches… Thanks also to the digitalisation of the circular economy.
How the circular economy went digital
The impact of online platforms is rising by the day. And with them, the weight of private individuals in the circular economy, both in terms of rental and second-hand goods. Digital tools and media have become driving forces, stimulating the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy. Apps, social networks, etc. Are helping to promote new ways of buying and living, and to bring buyers and sellers together on the many sales platforms. We already knew eBay, the pioneer. And now there’s Vinted, which originally allowed us to sell and buy clothes before welcoming, in its expansion, multiple sales of objects such as books, decorative items and even small pieces of furniture…
Meanwhile, and thanks to the internet, companies specialising in refurbishing have seen their reputation grow thanks to the sale of refurbished and repaired products, particularly during Black Friday. The circular economy and digital technology: creating links. Through digital platforms, we have seen the emergence of a number of new communities of users or citizens aimed at (re)developing the reflex and the use of the circular economy, Second-hand goods and car-sharing reflect this collaborative economy. Grounded at a local and regional level, these new platforms have created opportunities for exchanges between neighbours and also between businesses.
Long live free floating! And that’s not all, because this digitalisation has contributed to the emergence of new uses that promote the circular economy, such as Free Floating. A form of shared mobility that allows everyone to use a mobile solution (bike, scooter and even car…) without having to go to a station or terminal. Available for hire from a dedicated, downloadable application, and often billed by the minute, these new means of locomotion offer greater freedom of movement for users who, thanks to a geolocation system and unlocking via a QR code, can quickly find the solution that suits them best. The shift from an economy of ownership to an economy of use is also taking place thanks to mobile objects, with each connected object becoming a profit centre in its own right.
IMPACTS OF THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY
Or how the circular economy has become the Trojan horse for a profound transformation in our relationship to success and value. Until now, consumption has been an indicator of wealth and power. The power to appropriate something, to own it for exclusive use. To boast (directly or indirectly) to one’s fellow human beings, to be its sole owner. You can do what you like with it, you can even destroy it if you like.
But in reality, the more we consume, the more we waste, in particular by getting rid of cardboard or plastic packaging, and more often than not, without sorting. This raises a real taboo: hoarding resources is rewarding. Having a large plot of land is rewarding. To consume and emit a huge quantity of waste… is rewarding. It’s a sign of wealth, of purchasing power. But… the practice of the circular economy encourages a redefinition of success and value. So, we’re not defending purchasing power, but access to resources. We are not talking about the power to have but the enjoyment of goods. We’re talking about fulfilment, balance, harmony, well-being… These are values that we cannot buy.
The circular economy calls into question our investment in purchasing power and the use of goods as attributes of prestige or power. It is not purchasing power that we must defend, but personal and group fulfilment, thanks to access to natural resources, in ways that protect the environment and the living creatures that surround it. The linear economy is an economy of extraction, production, consumption, disposal, and destruction: an economy based on domination. The circular economy is an economy of resource conservation, sharing, linking, reuse and recovery. It is an economy based on relationships.
WHAT ABOUT PAYMENT FACILITIES?
Payment facilities have been the emblematic tools of traditional consumption and purchasing power. But they can also be an aid to sustainable consumption. Sustainable consumption needs payment facilities just as much, if not more. Indeed, more durable products sometimes have a higher purchase price: the extra cost can be offset by the increased durability due to better quality or repairability. Payment facilities are therefore a powerful lever for promoting more responsible consumption and giving the circular economy the boost it needs.
Finally, we can be sure that the circular economy is not just a reaction to the drop in purchasing power, but a fundamental trend. In the same way that the pandemic has amplified the digitalisation of many social practices (from teleconsulting to teleworking to home cinema), we can bet that the interest in the circular economy, sometimes discovered in this context of inflation and a drop in purchasing power,
will survive a return to better fortune, and we can only rejoice !