What is the Circular Economy?

What is the Circular Economy?

The Province’s new Waste Free Ontario Act includes a Circular Economy strategy, and Toronto is creating a Circular Economy Working Group as part of it’s Waste Strategy. But what is it?


A zero waste future is one in which goods are shared, designed to last and be easily recycled and repurposed. Zero waste uses a hierarchy that focuses on the highest and best use of a resource: reduce, reuse and recycle (in that order). Disposal or destruction of resources is waste that we need to avoid and design out of our system.

Zero waste is about building a vibrant circular economy, where unwanted materials are not disposed in a landfill or incinerator, but become the raw materials for something new. A strong circular economy keeps valuable resources circulating in the local economy, supporting good green jobs, benefiting the community, and reducing harmful environmental impacts.

Zero waste is possible. Right now in Toronto, our City waste diversion services mean we can reduce, reuse, recycle or compost 85% of the waste coming out of our homes. Improving access and education will help more people get to 85% - then we can look at simple and creative ways to reduce the other 15%.

Community groups and businesses right here in Toronto and around the world are showing that creative zero waste solutions prevent pollution, support healthy communities and drive a circular economy.

Zero waste is a journey. The path to zero waste requires investing in people and nurturing a value almost all of us share: taking responsibility for our own actions and not being wasteful. It requires communities and governments to understand waste management is not a disposal problem to be solved by machines rather, it is a resource recovery challenge to be solved by empowering people.

The Circular Economy is already happening in Toronto, and our governments can support it and help it grow, for example through government purchasing policies, by supporting innovation and local recycling and re-manufacturing businesses.

The Circuar Economy includes:

  • The City buying recycled paper from a company that recycles Toronto’s blue box materials.

  • A Waste Exchange website that helps businesses pass their unwanted materials to another business that can use it - e.g. tree limbs from an arborist getting to a furniture designer.  

  • Governments furnishing their offices with carpet manufactured locally from recycled fibers and sending old carpets to a local recycler.

  • A local business that composts food waste from restaurants and sells the compost to urban farmers who grow food for sale.