The circular economy represents a fundamental shift for businesses: away from the ‘linear’ model where resources are extracted, made into products and disposed of, to a model where products are remade, repaired, resold, or recycled.
The inner circles or ‘loops’ of accepted models are those where products do not need to be recycled or broken down for use as lower grade materials (think glass bottles being broken into finings and used as base layers for roads). Inner loops are preferable as they minimize energy and processing and avoid ‘downcycling’.
Designers are seen as being at the heart of the circular economy . Things should designed to be durable, upgradeable, repairable or recoverable in order not to end up in landfill or are downcycled. A rediscovered approach to design will mean products are made in different ways, are modular , or are designed with the end in mind .
Manufacturers , should now looking at new approaches that will enable extended product life , or refurbishment . Businesses who can demonstrate an approach and understanding of “end of life” solutions will be beast set to profit in a circular economy.
When Retailers are wondering whether consumers lease cars, TVs, fridges, even clothes and how will consumers react to remanufactured products, some of them are already able to close the loop and get the business model right with massive opportunity.
The recycling and recovery community have the scale, logistics and infrastructure capabilities to recover the value of resources.
A circular economy requires collaboration across the supply chain. It requires joined up thinking shared goals and new relationships.
The circular economy presents a direct challenge to the hierarchy as it considers the practicalities of material optimization, rather than waste management. Consequently, it opens up a more imaginative space for business – one based around materials flows rather than waste arisings. If there was a popularity contest, it would seem the circular economy is currently winning.