Not 1 cycle but a lot of them!

How Industry Circularity Definitions Differ from Nature and Why it Matters

Natural Fiber Welding ~ 23 June 2022

As it stands today, existing definitions of circularity miss the mark. Looking to Earth’s natural circularity as the gold standard, humanity can choose to demand solutions that are in alignment with the highest standards of true sustainability.

NFW's latest white paper explores this topic and outlines what they believe is the only model that offers the truly sustainable and scalable solution capable of meeting humanity’s wants and needs in material production. In their words ~

Biogeochemical cycles developed over billions of years to support complex ecosystems by converting energy from the sun and matter into a coherent system of biologically available forms. During the cycle, energy and matter are transferred between different reservoirs, namely: the biosphere, the atmosphere, oceans, and the geosphere (rock, sediments, and soil). Virtually all elements undergo some form of biogeochemical cycle. Certain elements, i.e. atoms like carbon and nitrogen, are both abundant and have the appropriate chemistry such that they have become essential and form the organic building blocks that make up life (e.g. sugars, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids).

Carbon in particular has received a lot of attention because there are two forms of carbon, carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), that are emitted from human industry into the atmosphere at high rates and are the primary carbon motifs contributing most significantly to the anthropogenic climate crisis. (It is worth noting that ethane, fluorocarbons, and other emissions matter as well.) At the same time, in its different forms and reservoirs (e.g. soil organic matter or large forests) carbon is an essential nutrient in global biodiversity and ecosystem health. If we look to a forest and trees as an example of natural circularity, we can follow individual elements as minerals are taken from the soil, CO2 is pulled from the air, and molecules are organized into plant material — all powered by sunlight. After the lifetime of the tree is done, it falls and begins to decompose back to the soil in the timescale of years, even decades. Sunlight now provides energy for photodegradation, and fungi and bacteria biodegrade lignin and cellulose that make up the tree. Insects and microorganisms continually biodegrade the tree into CO2 and new lipids, nucleic acids, and proteins to build themselves up. Microbial metabolism uses the energy from molecular bonds to mineralize nutrients from the tree into forms that other plants or organisms can use in the soil. Just as water cycles through the biosphere, the nutrients of life cycle out from a vast “ocean” of diversity.

The elements are returned to the forms they came from and begin the cycle again. This is circularity in its truest sense.