The circular economy is a system that promotes the maximization of resources and the minimization of waste, which is achieved by closing the loop of production, consumption, and disposal.

The circular economy has become a popular model explored by enterprises and governments, as it provides a sustainable and regenerative approach. However, since the circular economy can be applied to various industries, it is often defined in different ways.

In this article, we will discuss the characteristics of the circular economy that often influence how it is defined and the seven pillars that influence the circular economy.

Characteristics That Influence How the Circular Economy is Defined 

Many organizations define the circular economy in terms of the concepts associated with it: leasing equipment, supply chain optimization, reducing waste, and more. However, these concepts are high-level and don’t provide much insight.

Material cycling is another concept that frequently surfaces in circular economy discussions. A complex and continuous process, material cycling prioritizes sustainability and resource efficiency by ensuring materials are used optimally and to their fullest potential.

In a circular economy, materials are cycled for reuse, initially as products, then components, and then recycled back down into raw materials as the end result. Materials are kept in use for as long as possible to ensure the highest value is received.

However, when materials are recycled back down into raw components, additional concerns arise about the post-recycling process, specifically around recyclability, scarcity, and the toxicity of certain materials.

As a result, leaders in circularity recognized the need for a resource enterprises could reference with guidelines for how specific materials can be optimized and used to uphold circular economy objectives.

In establishing guidelines for use and optimization, it became apparent that guidelines should be established for all types of resources used in a circular economy, as materials are just one type of resource. This led to the establishment of the seven pillars of the circular economy.

What are the Seven Pillars of the Circular Economy?

The seven pillars of the circular economy shed light on the different functions of the resources used in a circular economy and provide enterprises with practices they can incorporate to work towards circularity within their organizations. The seven pillars consist of the following:

1. Materials

In a circular economy, materials are cycled continuously. Cycling is the process of recovering natural resources from waste and reintroducing them into the production cycle for reuse. Keeping materials in use for as long as possible ensures minimal loss of quality or value and lowers the need to extract resources from the environment.

2. Renewable Energy

Renewable energy can be generated from solar, wind, and geothermal sources, which lowers greenhouse gas emissions and, in return, has minimal impact on the environment. In a truly circular economy, all energy used is from renewable sources and powers all aspects of material transport, processing, and use. Although the sources of renewable energy are infinite, access to or affordability of utilizing renewable energy isn’t always possible. Therefore, renewable energy should be used whenever possible to displace the use of fossil fuels.

3. Water Stewardship

In a circular economy, water is cycled for indefinite reuse. Water is managed as a shared resource, and its quality is maintained through water systems and technologies that can maximize energy and nutrient recovery from wastewater. Sustainable practices such as water conservation, wastewater treatment, and rainwater harvesting can also be leveraged to support the availability of water.

4. Biodiversity

The fourth pillar of the circular economy is biodiversity, which aims to protect our natural ecosystems. Biodiversity can be integrated into a company’s strategy through sustainable land use and environmental preservation practices. Biodiversity is also supported through measures such as reforestation, habitat restoration, and species conservation.

5. Society & Culture

The needs of society play a significant role in the design and implementation of the circular economy. Enterprises often reference cultural and social values to inform their internal processes, production, and management models. Additionally, communities use sustainable consumption practices to reduce their environmental impact and support the circular economy.

6. Health & Wellbeing

The sixth pillar of the circular economy aims to support the health and well-being of humans and other species. In a circular economy, measures are taken to reduce exposure to toxic substances, such as keeping harmful chemicals in highly controlled cycles.

7. Value

Since natural resources and energy aren’t infinitely available, their use contributes to societal value. Value exists beyond the financial aspect, as natural resources have immeasurable value and environmental impacts. Utilizing resources related to societal value allows businesses to broaden their value generation into different elements that can positively impact society collectively instead of just individual stakeholders.

How the Seven Pillars of the Circular Economy Can Be Used in Tech

The tech industry significantly impacts society and could greatly benefit from adopting circular economy principles. IT leaders can substantially reduce their environmental impact by integrating circularity with existing business practices. Here are some ways the seven pillars of the circular economy can be used in the tech industry:


In the tech industry, materials play a significant role in the production of electronic devices and other products. By adopting circular economy principles, companies can design products with circularity in mind, ensuring they are durable, repairable, and recyclable. By integrating circular economy principles with product design, products can be used for as long as possible, which significantly reduces waste.

Renewable Energy

The tech industry consumes a significant amount of energy, which significantly impacts the environment. Adopting renewable energy sources—such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy—allows IT leaders to reduce their companies’ carbon footprints. Companies can also use green alternatives to power their day-to-day operations by utilizing smart thermostats or smart lighting devices to improve energy efficiency within their organization.


Water is essential for the production of many tech products. Water conservation should be a top priority for leaders in the tech industry. Utilizing technologies, such as water-efficient cooling systems, can significantly improve the quality of water used for production. Companies can also implement water recycling programs to reduce water usage.

Mobile reCell’s Circular IT Asset Recovery Solution

By following the seven pillars of the circular economy, companies in the IT sector can collectively incorporate circularity and sustainability into their business practices.

Mobile reCell subscribes to the idea that we, as an IT community, can make strides to enable a closed-loop, circular economy—a zero-waste economy where the maximum value and use are extracted from all products and materials.

Our software-driven solution prioritizes the efficient use of resources through the recovery, redeployment, reuse, and reselling of corporate-issued devices.

Redeploying, reusing, and reselling devices extends the device lifecycle and, in turn, reduces waste and environmental impact.

Learn how you can further benefit from working with Mobile reCell.


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