We know that the Circular Economy is key to bringing our planet and the economy back into balance. But how can we achieve this goal? By creating products and services that are based on circular business models and convincing people to use them.
The problem with E-Waste
One of the big problems of our time is E-waste. Latest estimates show that the world now discards approximately 50 million tons of e-waste per year — an amount greater in weight than all the commercial airliners ever made — of which only about 20% is formally recycled (globalwaste.org). To tackle the e-waste problem, we must change the production and consumption patterns. Because we know: the only sustainable approach for effective management of E-waste is to avoid it.
Ways out of the linear future disaster
“Take, make, waste” is our current economic model. It is characterized by a linear, usually limited product lifecycle in which products end up in landfills. In a circular economy, waste does not exist. Products and raw materials are designed to be reused as long and intensively as possible. Therefore, systems and value chains must be rethought from the beginning. And strategies like reduction, reuse, and recycling have to be incorporated by design into the product and its lifecycle. As soon as the resources you invest in production and manufacturing can loop infinitely, they become an asset for your business.
Familiarize with the r-strategies
To transition your organization from linear to circular, we recommend a four-step process based on the r-strategies. These are circularity strategies fueled by innovation in product and service design, technology, and business models. Building on the assumption that the greater environmental benefits can only be achieved if resource reduction innovations are considered early in the production chain and waste disposal and incineration without energy recovery is avoided wherever possible.
How to build circular ecosystems
In our paper, we use the example of a small, battery-powered consumer good to highlight the crucial principles of the circular economy and illustrate some of the challenges you might face with your business while stepping into the circular economy. Our goal: redesign an everyday object and make it fully circular in an ideal situation.
With a cordless screwdriver, we become concrete. For example: If your current screwdriver breaks or becomes outdated, you just buy a new one. You might keep the old one in your drawer for some time, but unfortunately, it will end up in a landfill one day. We’ve been thinking about how that doesn’t have to happen. We demonstrate how it could be designed and what the ecosystem around will look like so that we not only extend its lifecycle but make it circular. Therefore, we shifted the focus from efficiency to usability and repairability and broadened our industrial design perspective.
We rethought the product and its component architecture completely. Found the ideal, sustainable materials for every component fulfilling all security values, ergonomic obligations, and design statements. And developed an ecosystem around. In our case: the digital infrastructure to scale and interconnect the analog product with the business model and all stakeholders for several products and value streams.
How to thrive in a circular economy
To drive your business into a circular future, you will need to combine design, engineering, and strategy services with sustainable development practices and behavioral science principles.
Circular design is for everybody: Head of Product Development, Product Design, Innovation, R&D Managers, CSR Representatives, Sustainability Managers etc.
By sharing this in-house project, we anticipate the changing market dynamic influenced by the right to repair movement in the US, the European Green Deal, and consumers becoming more and more aware of the topics of sustainability and circularity.
Download the guide today to learn more about circular design.