Still, that's the cornerstone of the "circular economy" movement, where sustainability advocates are trying to sell businesses on resource cost savings and efficiency gains.
Ellen MacArthur, world-renowned sailor and founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, discussed her organization's mission at the recent GreenBiz 16 conference in Phoenix, Arizona.
Her take: Companies have only started to scratch the surface of a trillion-dollar opportunity.
"We probably only know 2 percent of what the circular economy really is," MacArthur said. "It's fundamentally a change in the way the economy functions from the outset — the way materials flow through the economy, the that way energy is used."