The Circle of Life (of materials)

Posted by in Urbanism

This post has been inspired by my encounter with the Circular Economy concept, which is gaining more and more attention in the world of innovation and sustainable development. The idea of following biological cycles in our industrial processes aims at re-thinking our whole culture of excess production and consumption in order to use our resources efficiently. In case you are too lazy to read about it, watch the colourful video at the bottom of the post. It explains the whole idea of Circular Economy probably far better than I could but here is my read on it anyway…

The talk about sustainability and sustainable development has been going on and on for over 25 years now. Even though many things have changed and both businesses and governments are adopting more environmentally and socially responsible policies, there is still much that can be done to boost economic development without depleting our resources. The new concept of “circular economy” is gaining more momentum in the field of innovation, product design and waste management. It encourages the replacement of the verb “to consume” with the verb “to use” and eventually (hopefully) “consumers” will turn into “users”. The difference is in the way in which we view the use of products – whether we ditch them, or we re-use them.

Waste is piling up in the whole world and landfill sites are full of items that, if thoughtfully designed, could have been used again, or at least parts of them. On the one hand, this could refer to the production of goods that can be easily disassembled and their parts used in the manufacturing of new products. On the other hand, it could mean producing items that are not sold but leased. For example, Xerox is a perfect example of a company that has adopted the “circular economy” concept into its manufacturing processes. Xerox does not sell any of its products, only leases them. Therefore, it has to ensure that all items it produces are fit for re-use and their parts are designed in such a way that allows them to be easily replaced when they stop functioning. As a result, fewer goods are produced but the company is still in business because its lease agreements are increasing. So the company is happy, users are happy and the environment too!

Gosh, my posts used to be so much fun and this one is so serious… But it’s actually quite exciting! New concepts on changing the world are always inspiring, especially when they teach us to go back to nature and learn from it. Watch the video below to see what I actually mean… 

And that’s how it’s done!