The circular economy is a consumption and production model that seeks to reuse and recycle existing materials or products as many times as possible in order to extend their life cycle and minimize environmental impact.
In recent years, this system has been developed in countries such as France, Italy, the Netherlands, among others, which has drawn international attention as an objective in the race for sustainable transition. Despite being a goal, the implementation of the model is not so simple and specific in the Colombian industry, there are still some challengesaccording to the director of the Center for Sustainable Development for Latin America, Juan Camilo Cárdenas
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Any industry must be aware that it is technically impossible to reach levels of perfect circularity
Cárdenas explains that, although the circular system transforms products and guarantees, as far as possible, recycling and reuse, the transformation of materials and energy generates losses and every time a material is recycled, it is not used again 100 percent.
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This decrease is part of the economy and the productive process as a physical law, explains the director, so one of the great challenges for the country’s industry is to guarantee products with greater durability, in order to reduce the loss of material.
Another problem of the industries is the budgetary cut in materials that directly impacts the environment. Cárdenas uses the «fast fashion» segment as an example, which, in order to adapt to the competition, has «increased use of low-cost synthetic fabrics with severe impacts on the generation of micro plastics that arises the health of the ecosystems and especially of the marine ones».
But there are not only challenges in terms of production, there are also challenges in the country’s consumer culture. Cardenas explains that «Cultural changes are required to reorient consumption patterns for goods that are less compatible with the circular economy.» This is difficult because the market economy and its industries invest large sums in advertising that attracts more consumers, who increase demand and, in turn, the production of services and goods that drive the economy.
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Despite the great effort that the industry must make, the manager is positive about the public policies that the Government has managed. Among these is the approval of Law 2232 of 2022 on single-use plastics, where limits are stipulated to eliminate a series of plastics from national production.
«This should bring incentives for the technological transformation of the national industry and for new companies required to enter these packaging markets, and other consumer utensils with material-based products that would be closer to that circular economyCardenas explained.
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