Limitations of the linear production and consumption model

As we have seen, the linear economic model is based on the continuous consumption of objects: for example, a smartphone that is still perfectly functional has to be changed only because a new model has come out; a broken vacuum cleaner is replaced with a new one because doing so costs less than repairing it. So the raw materials extracted and processed to obtain the ‘old’ smartphone or the broken vacuum cleaner become waste. In the linear model, resource management is organised into open throughputs, which take the raw material from its natural location to landfills. Multiple and expensive extraction, refining and processing activities have no other purpose than to create a product that will remain in our possession for a short time and then be thrown away.

The main critical issues related to the linear economy regard:

  • growing demand for raw materials and energy: the linear economy considers the resources on our planet to be unlimited and therefore uses processes characterised by open throughputs of energy and materials;
  • pollution resulting from the production of new products and the disposal of old products, which have become waste: along the five stages of the linear production process, manufacturing waste, waste water, greenhouse gases and waste are generated, all of which have profound environmental impacts on water, soil and air.

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