Disadvantages of Linear Economy

5 Disadvantages of Linear Economy Explained

Disadvantages of linear economy are; resource depletion, ecosystem/habitat loss, price volatility, raw material supply-interruption, greenhouse emission, general environmental degradation.

This article discusses the disadvantages of linear economy, as follows;







1). Resource Depletion (as one of the Disadvantages of Linear Economy)

One of the problems caused by linear economy is resource depletion.

This simply refers to a condition whereby natural resources in a given area have been reduced significantly till they become insufficient to meet present and/or future needs.

In a linear economy, resource depletion occurs because there are no measures in place to recycle raw materials and products. This absence of recycling is the defining characteristic of linear economies, and separates the linear concept from other economic concepts like circular and green economies.

A linear economy impacts negatively on sustainability by adopting a take-make-waste approach that places all emphasis on production and short-term profit, often at the expense of conservation [1].

By focusing primarily on instantaneous economic gain, linear economic enterprises tend to favor large-scale production over quality. The outcome of this is a highly versatile, unstable and competitive marketplace that encourages rapid, continuous change in customer preferences, trends and prices; as well as short-term use and disposal of products.

The linear economic model produces so much waste due to the encouragement of short-term use and disposal, which is also the cause of resource depletion [6].

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On the other hand, a circular economic approach to production and consumption is likely to reduce the rate at which natural resources are depleted, by recycling used materials and re-applying these toward the manufacture of new products [5].

Disadvantages of Linear Economy: Resource Depletion (Credit: docentjoyce 2015 .CC BY 2.0.)
Disadvantages of Linear Economy: Resource Depletion (Credit: docentjoyce 2015 .CC BY 2.0.)






2). Ecosystem/Habitat Loss

The ways in which a linear economy affects the environment include habitat-loss and ecosystem destruction.

Habitat loss and ecosystem destruction are risks of the linear economic approach because continuous demand for natural resources will ultimately degrade and destroy habitats and ecosystems.

An example of this is deforestation, which can occur as a result of linear economic practices in industries like paper manufacturing. Because such industries rely on raw materials from natural habitats, running them by a linear approach will reduce biodiversity and destroy the habitats of several forest species.

Habitat loss is a major problem due to the role of most natural ecosystems as carbon sinks to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. By destroying natural habitats, linear economic practice contribute to environmental degradation, economic losses and climate change.






3). Price Volatility (as one of the Disadvantages of Linear Economy)

Because there is no stability or sustainability of supply in a linear economy, price fluctuations are bound to occur on a continuous basis.

Factors that can be used to explain high price volatility in linear economy include occasional, short-term resource scarcity and instability of supply chains [8].

High price volatility is itself a disadvantage, because it places both producers and customers at constant risk of economic loss and hardship. It also implies that short-term profits, even when substantial, can be rendered negligible by long-term price fluctuations. Other effects of volatile price conditions in linear economy include foreign trade challenges, low employment security, and unreliable production quality.

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Disadvantages of Linear Economy: Price Volatility (Credit: MDChaara 2012 .CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Disadvantages of Linear Economy: Price Volatility (Credit: MDChaara 2012 .CC BY-SA 3.0.)






4). Raw Material Supply-Interruption

In a linear economy, the supply of raw materials is not reliable because of a lack of adequate measures to replenish consumed resources.

This means that frequent interruption of the industrial supply chain is a characteristic and a disadvantage, of linear economy.

Examples of materials that can encounter supply-interruption in linear economy include; organic raw materials, fossil fuels, metals and semiconductors used for the manufacture of electronics. Unstable supply is itself a major cause of price fluctuations and economic losses.

A circular economic approach is recommended to reduce the rate of raw material extraction for manufacturing, by increasing quality and durability of products to increase their lifecycle, as well as by recycling used products [2].

The circular approach is especially needed when dealing with critical raw materials that are limited in available reserve [4].






5). Environmental Degradation (as one of the Disadvantages of Linear Economy)

In environmental science, linear economy is evaluated solely on the basis of its effects on the environment.

The environmental impacts of a linear economy are generally negative, for reasons that include excessive consumption of resources, and rapid generation of waste.

Risks posed by linear economic practices to the environment can be very severe, and include pollution, climate change and global warming [7].

Because of the scale and complexity of production in various industries, linear economic environmental impacts may sometimes be irreversible [3], such as those involving the total depletion of non-renewable resources and the destruction of natural biomes.

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Expenses on environmental remediation further increase the economic losses incurred in the long run, so that it is more sustainable for economic development to be carried out with full consideration of its potential environmental impacts.








Disadvantages of linear economy are;

1. Resource Depletion

2. Ecosystem/Habitat Loss

3. Price Volatility

4. Raw Material Supply-Interruption

5. Environmental Degradation







1). Ascott, E. (2021). “Are We Finally Leaving the Wasteful Linear Economy Behind?” Available at: https://www.workdesign.com/2021/11/are-we-finally-leaving-the-wasteful-linear-economy-behind/. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

2). Cerqueira-Streit, J. A.; Endo, G. Y.; Guarnieri, P.; Batista, L. (2021). “Sustainable Supply Chain Management in the Route for a Circular Economy: An Integrative Literature Review.” Logistics, MDPI, vol. 5(4), pages 1-21. Available at: https://www.mdpi.com/2305-6290/5/4/81. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

3). Didenko, N. I.; Klochkov, Y. S.; Skripnuk, D. F. (2018). “Ecological Criteria for Comparing Linear and Circular Economies.” Resources, MDPI, vol. 7(3), pages 1-17. Available at: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Ecological-Criteria-for-Comparing-Linear-and-Didenko-Klochkov/93e0ecbdef4ba6f0537b00b33466192327faf4ee. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

4). Gaustad, G.; Krystofik, M.; Bustamante, M. L.; Badami, K. (2017). “Circular economy strategies for mitigating critical material supply issues.” Resources Conservation and Recycling 135(4). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.resconrec.2017.08.002. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

5). Jørgensen, S.; Pedersen, L. J. T. (2018). “The Circular Rather than the Linear Economy. In: RESTART Sustainable Business Model Innovation.” Palgrave Studies in Sustainable Business In Association with Future Earth. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-91971-3_8. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

6). Michelini, G; Moraes, R.; Nobre da Cunha, R.; Costa, J.; Ometto, A. R. (2017). “From Linear to Circular Economy: PSS Conducting the Transition.” Procedia CIRP 64:2-6. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.procir.2017.03.012. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

7). Purwanto, E.; Prasetio, T. (2021). “Changing the Paradigm of a Linear Economy into a Circular Economy in Residential Waste Management.” IOP Conference Series Earth and Environmental Science 945(1):012054. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1088/1755-1315/945/1/012054. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

8). Wautelet, T. (2018). “Exploring the role of independent retailers in the circular economy: a case study approach.” Thesis for Master of Business Administration. Available at: https://doi.org/10.13140/RG.2.2.17085.15847. (Accessed 7 April 2023).

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