LINEAR TO CIRCULAR
The Circular Economy or Closed Loop Economy are an Industrial Economy approaches and frameworks of thinking that call for shifting business models and consumption patterns from a Linear Economy model that is practiced in every aspect of our lives today to a Circular Economy by taking example from how living systems work.
The current Linear Economy where we Take, Make and Dispose has led us to a disposable culture with rising cost of finite raw materials, volatile markets, social and ethical issues and a substantial environmental impact on our planet.
But when looking more carefully at how living systems work, and especially how different the perception of waste (or lack of it) is from the stand point of a living system, where waste is not really waste but nutrients or materials that flow in circles, in and out throughout the system to be re-used over and over again – it is then clear that living systems are pre-designed in such way to allow for the flow of materials through an optimized system that is efficient and sustainable.
Similarly, the Circular Economy calls for optimization of entire systems rather than its components by re-thinking and re-designing the pillars of our economy to consume, produce, design, finance and govern in a circular, restorative and regenerative way.
The Circular Economy draws its principles from different school of thoughts such as Biomimmicry, Industrial Ecology and Cradle to Cradle models.
Respectively, It identifies two components in a system and how these components (or nutrients) complete their lifecycle and then are disassembled and re-purposed to circulate in the system and eradicate waste.
Biological Components can be designed to return to the environment safely by composting and Technical Components such as Polymers or other non-toxic synthetic materials that are designed to be high quality, with prolonged longevity and when reach to end of their life - can be disassembled and put back into the system to be re-used again and again using minimal energy.
The Circular Economy seeks to understand how components influence each other within a system and create a balanced and sustainable model that takes into account economic, social and environmental factors.
PRODUCT VS. SERVICE
The Circular Economy encourages a shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy and it promotes, where applicable an economy based on Services instead of Products. Manufacturers and Retailers will aim to provide a service instead of a product and this shift will allow for creation of better and higher quality products to be used and re-used again instead of focusing on creating the cheapest and the most disposable product to be sold and eventually end in the landfill.
DESIGN AND CIRCULAR ECONOMY
When talking about environmental impacts, it is commonly accepted that approximately a staggering 80% of the environmental impact of a product is determined in the design stage.
Considering that we live in a Linear Economy where we know the product will eventually end up in a landfill if is not lucky to be recycled, it is not surprising that most of the effort at the design stage goes into the retail and consumer stages of a products lifecycle. We focus on packaging, branding, marketing and making the product as appealing as possible so it can sell fast but not taking into consideration at the design stage what will happen to the product at the end of it life.
Circular Economy is all about a better design. When taking into account the products full lifecycle, waste cannot be seen in isolation and the change must start from above. The designer has a choice whether to incorporate all stages of the lifecycle into the design through early decisions about materials, functionality and the industrial processes required to make the product.
Although the Design stage is crucial in the process of creating a better and more sustainable product lifecycle, it is up to everyone involved in the stages of the lifecycle such as consumers, retailers, manufacturers, academics, financial experts, government and policy makers to collaborate in order to successfully and efficiently transform towards the Circular Economy.