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Difference between linear and circular economy

Understand the main points that differentiate the linear and circular economy and why it is so important for companies to seek more sustainable solutions.

For some time now the planet has been giving signs that we need to rethink our systems and business models. Population growth and shortage of natural resources are two of the main indications that sustainable alternatives are increasingly necessary.

In the debate between economic models, the circular economy is shown to be an option more aligned with sustainability, helping to preserve the health of the planet and the future of the next generations. But what is the difference between a linear and circular economy? We will tell you next.

What is a linear economy?

Linear economy is a form of organization of society, based on the increasing extraction of natural resources, and the products manufactured from these resources are used until their disposal. In practical terms, it is based on the following system:

Extraction > > Production > > Consumption > > Disposal

Linear economy emerged along with the industrial revolution. Although this is the way the traditional economy works, it is considered unworkable. After all, in the long run it pushes the planet to its limits.

To better understand how it works, imagine the following situation: in linear economy, customers tend to search for new products more frequently. This means that old products are disposed of faster. As a result, the quality of products tends to decline. After all, they don’t have to have such a long lifespan. This also leads to consumers buying new items more quickly, thus creating a vicious cycle.

Why is the linear economy a problem?

One of the big problems with the linear economy is that it leads to the creation of waste

from the production process to the disposal of the product. That is, a huge amount of unused material is generated, which ends up being burned or left in garbage dumps.

As a result, ecosystems are overloaded, damaging the supply of food, building materials, and shelter. Therefore, among the main consequences of the linear economy are:

  • Unsustainability;
  • Scarcity and uncertainty regarding the availability of resources
  • Increased pollution;
  • Human and environmental vulnerability to pollution;
  • Volatile prices;
  • Product interdependence;
  • Damage to the ecosystem.

It is worth mentioning that many practices are already carried out with the objective of reducing impacts, such as: reducing the extraction of raw materials, increasing recycling and changing business models. However, more is needed. And that’s where the circular economy comes in.

What is the circular economy?

The circular economy is a strategic economic model aimed at coordinating industrial production systems. In the circular economy, it is understood that the entire industrial system must be regenerative and have circular flows. In practice, this means that there is no end to a product’s useful life. Instead, it or its components are restored.

This is possible through an integrated process that allows the elements of the production chain to be reused in the manufacture of new products. This is why we say that in the circular economy, the design of business and the industrial line is changed. Because, from the start, the products are designed to go through a cycle of disassembly and reuse.

The advantages of this economic model go beyond recycling and waste management. The circular economy also:

  • Reduces resource extraction;
  • Develops new products, services and economically and ecologically viable business models;
  • Increases efficiency;
  • Uses renewable energy;
  • Replaces harmful chemicals for health;
  • Avoids the generation of waste;
  • Creates customer recovery programs;
  • Limits supply risks;
  • Reduces pollution.
Check out the complete PP cycle at Lamiex, we always recycle.

Linear economy vs circular economy

Economic growth

When it comes to economic growth, we can say that the big difference between linear and circular economy is that the former understands that development and resources go hand in hand. Meanwhile, the circular economy shows that economic growth does not depend on increasing resource consumption.


This is one of the issues where the linear and circular economy most collide. After all, in the linear economy, the idea to improve sustainability is through eco-efficiency. This means increasing economic gains while minimizing environmental impact. As a result, the overloading of the system is postponed.

In the circular economy, sustainability is improved with the eco-effectiveness of the system. That is, instead of reducing the negative impact of the system, the idea is to increase the positive impact of the system, with structural and radical changes.

Product value

Did you know that in the linear economy, reuse follows the downcycling line? This means that the product is used for a low quality purpose, reducing the value and making a third use of the material almost impossible. Meanwhile, in the circular economy, reuse should be of the best possible quality, with the material’s function being equal (functional reuse) or of higher value (upcycling) than the initial function. Consequently, the value is maintained or even increased.


While in the linear economy, the main focus is consumption, in the circular economy, consumers become users. This means that long-lasting products are shared or rented when possible. And if they are sold, there are incentives and agreements that guarantee their return to the system. This ensures that components or the product as a whole can be reused after its primary use.


With regard to inputs, plastic is one of those that are undergoing the most change of mindset between linear and circular economy. After all, in the linear economy, he can be seen as a villain in some cases. But in the circular economy, the characteristics of plastic make it an excellent design solution.

In other words, it is not thought of as waste, but as a material that allows its products to be reworked. This is the case, for example, of polypropylene and polyethylene, plastics that form Lamiex’s sheets and that are recyclable.

Since its foundation, sustainability has been part of Lamiex’s philosophy. The evidence of this are the various initiatives the company carries out on behalf of the environment. Going through the use of water from the manufacturing process, Lamiex also carries out reverse logistics actions.

Reverse logistics is nothing more than the set of processes and means used to reuse or manage waste correctly. Lamiex has a complete plastic recycling process. In summary, the three actions performed are:

  • Relaminating of chips that comes from the customer to the customer;
  • Laminating of chips from Lamiex’s manufacturing process, for the manufacture of sustainable sheets;
  • Correct disposal of waste that cannot be used in reprocessing due to contamination.
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