Leyla Acaroglu: Why the Circular Economy Needs Systems Thinking

Case Studies

Jul 6, 2023

To achieve a transition from the current linear, polluting and wasteful economy to a circular and sustainable one, a systems thinking approach is fundamental. Circularity requires us to think in cycles, to work within nature’s systems and to eliminate waste and pollution. Therefore, to adopt an expansive and systems mindset is instrumental in creating a truly circular economy.

The current linear economy is based on extraction and exploitation. So, we are constantly operating at an ecological deficit, eating into the future generation’s resources today and exceeding the planetary boundaries. It is therefore crucial to restructure our economy, this involves the elimination of waste, to ensure products last longer and actively restore and regenerate nature.

Systems thinking is a way of seeing the world as a series of interconnected and interdependent systems rather than lots of independent parts. It seeks to counter a reductionist worldview — the idea that a system can be understood by the sum of its isolated parts — and replace it instead with wholeism. This view sees everything as part of a larger whole and that the connections between all elements are necessary in understanding the way systems and the world at large works.

To contextualise this to realise the transformation of the Australian economy from linear to circular, we have to ensure that we begin with the whole system. To understand the critical parts and work within these to create solutions that meet human needs, provided it is not at the expense of the wider systems that sustain life. More specifically, circular systems thinking shifts the way we approach these problems from issues to opportunities because it allows us to view the whole picture before the parts, “…the relationships that reinforce the problems are identified so that effective interventions can be implemented that shift their status quo” as said by Leyla Acaroglu.

Read full paper here 

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