April 11, 2017 — Circle Economy is launching their new Circle Design Program today. Part of a broader movement to accelerate the transition to the circular economy, the Circle Design Program aims to introduce businesses, designers, and entrepreneurs to circular design thinking and through a collaborative, on-the-ground approach, work with them to develop practical solutions to complex circular challenges.
Circular design thinking is central to the transition to a circular economy.
Although waste-reducing initiatives and other recycling efforts are still necessary in order to cope with the materials currently in use in linear supply chains, they are also ineffective and do not constitute a viable option in the long run. Resources can better be maintained and retrieved when products and components have been designed for disassembly, reuse, or remanufacture, for example — i.e. when they have been designed according to circular design principles. The need for retrieval is also mitigated when business models anticipate the pre-use, use, and post-use phases of their products.
This is why it is critical for current businesses and the next generation of entrepreneurs, designers, and consumers to learn and adopt circular design thinking. It provides room for new perspectives, from future-proof, innovative business models, to regenerative products, services, and systems, where waste is minimised and loops are closed.
Leveraging the versatility of circular design thinking
Circular design thinking isn’t exactly new. Design for disassembly, for example, is widely recognized for its direct relevance to the manufacturing industry and the benefits it provides when products are designed with ease of repair, upgradability, optimal reuse and high value recycling in mind. These benefits, however, are not exclusive to the manufacturing industry. Circular design thinking is relevant across industries and sectors and its versatility provides opportunities to any business aiming at future-proofing its activities. Understandably, it has been gaining a lot of traction.
Circle Economy aims to introduce a wide range of industries and sectors to the advantages of circular design thinking. One of the first steps to achieving this was a recent collaboration with Dutch government-funded program Nederland Circulair! and our partners MVO Nederland, which allowed us to tackle the challenge of designing circular climate systems.
Climate systems typically provide heating, cooling, and ventilation in buildings, and are traditionally not designed with disassembly, repairability, or modularity in mind. This often results in costly practices like the replacement of complete systems when only specific elements are broken. Circle Economy’s collaborative workshop approach allowed to uncover five circular design strategies that are not only applicable to the entire sector but also have the support of key sector agents to be implemented in the future.
Implementing circular design strategies in the circular economy
Clear, circular design strategies pave the way for and empower producers, suppliers, and designers to easily employ and apply them. Trade associations can leverage the ability these strategies have to nudge members and stakeholders along the circular economy track. Buyers, consultants, governments and clients can make informed decisions in order for their industry to benefit from circular design thinking. Industry associations (like the VLA, in the case of climate systems) and other parties in charge of developing industry standards and norms can adopt these strategies in order to set guidelines for designers and engineers to follow as part of product development standards. If circular design thinking is adapted in this sense, it has vast potential to enable positive change.
Do you or your organization want to be one of the pioneers that get circular design thinking out of theory and into practice? Join one of our workshops.