The End of Trash - EXCLUSIVE cover story for The National Geographic Magazine
Is a world without trash possible?
The vision of a “circular economy”—where we use resources sparingly and recycle endlessly—is inspiring businesses and environmentalists alike.
For centuries, industrialized countries have followed a take-make-waste linear economy: raw materials are gathered and transformed into products that are sold and then discarded as waste. Value is created in this economic system by producing and selling as many products as possible. The model not only drains natural resources, but also—in the demands it makes in energy consumption and because of a reliance on fossil fuels—exacerbates global heating. A circular economy offers an alternative by decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources. It is based on designing waste and pollution out of the system, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Farmers, manufacturers and governments across the globe are taking steps to experiment with and implement a circular economy as part of their efforts to address the climate crisis