quotes How circular economy is transforming industries and product designs

15 April 2024
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Updated 14 April 2024

How circular economy is transforming industries and product designs

Circular economies provide optimism during resource scarcity, environmental degradation and climate change. The circular economy presents a compelling alternative to the linear paradigm as civilizations embrace sustainable behaviors. We can weather global crises with circular economy resilience and regeneration. Production, consumption, and resource management could change industries and product designs.

Regenerative economies like the circular economy eliminate waste and maximize resource efficiency, unlike the linear model’s “take-make-dispose” cycle. The circular economy saves raw materials by extending smartphone lifespan from 18 to 36 months. Remanufacturing reduces vehicle component waste and resource utilization. The EPA recycled 34.9 percent of aluminum beverage, food, foil and other metal packaging in 2018. Data shows that circular economy ideas improve sustainability and resource efficiency.

When it comes to the impact on industry practices, first is food security. Circularity improves food security since the food industry emits 10 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases and uses 21.3 billion tonnes of resources annually. We must reduce food waste, which accounts for 30 percent of production. Waste reduction maximizes resources, reduces nutrient-consuming processes and improves system sustainability.

Better food storage, distribution, and consumption can minimize waste and secure future food supplies. Moreover, circular manufacturing would save resources, extend product life, recycle materials and regenerate resources. This approach could meet climate change mitigation goals by reducing resource use by 28 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent. These results facilitate climate change action endeavors and improve manufacturing processes. Circularity helps manufacturers predict environmental impact and improve resource efficiency, mitigating climate change.

Second, fast consumption and waste characterize the fashion industry. However, circular approaches that design durable products encourage the repair, reuse and recycling of textile materials, which may sustain the sector. A 2022 audit of apparel, textile and luxury goods companies worldwide found that 16 percent provided weight data for circular fashion items compared to 13 percent for take-back items. These findings show that fashion appreciates circularity and that circular approaches have the potential to transform the industry.

Automotive and transport is the third case study. Automotive closed-loop activities include energy efficiency, long-lasting vehicles and recyclable/environmental materials. Electric cars, car-sharing programs and efficient public transport should be integrated into this sector for circularity. Research in 2022 found that the strategies reduced global resource use by 28 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 39 percent. Economic benefits reduce circular practice impact on transport, promoting eco-friendly transport. As the automotive industry moves toward circularity, it helps fight climate change and create a sustainable world.

The circular economy presents a compelling alternative to the linear paradigm as civilizations embrace sustainable behaviors.

Furthermore, renewable energy precision waste management and circular economy can boost renewable energy market efficiency. Solar, wind and battery reuse promotes safe green energy. There is steady solar and wind generation capacity growth. Improved bioenergy use in industries diversifies and sustains the energy mix. Renewable sources generated 29 percent of global power in 2020, representing considerable growth from previous years. This suggests that circular processes are needed to optimize renewable energies and spread them to countries that need affordable, green energy.

Circular agriculture restores soil integrity, reduces chemical inputs and protects the environment. A more sustainable and adaptable food system includes crop rotation, organic farming and closed nutrient cycles. Agriculture destroyed 60-70 percent of biodiversity. Circular farming ensures food security, biodiversity and ecological balance. Thus, humanity can use it to create a more sustainable and resilient agricultural system that meets current and future needs.

When it comes to the potential transformation in product design, product durability and sustainability are changing with circular economy ideas. Car-sharing, tool libraries and garment rentals demonstrate that service economies value access over ownership. Zipcar cuts traffic, pollution and resource use. Second, designs emphasize product accessibility through disassembly and maintenance. Modular smartphones like the Fairphone enable users to change components, standardize interfaces and label them, saving electricity. Bioplastics and mycelium-based leather are being studied as petroleum-free alternatives by circular product design. Adidas’ partnership with Parley for the Oceans to recycle ocean waste into shoes is prominent sustainable endeavor. Patagonia’s recycled polyester fleece jackets conserve resources. Circular product design needs wear-resistant durability. Rolex watches endure due to their high quality and timeless design. Ultimately, circular economy product designs enable resilient consumption.

Circular economy companies encounter many obstacles that require creative solutions. Industries must adopt circular thinking. Knowing and understanding this transition is necessary. Second, recycling infrastructure and reverse logistics take much work to build. Governments, corporations, and research institutes must collaborate to address this infrastructural gap and implement circular practices. These issues require comprehensive, collaborative solutions. Industry collaboration, research alliances and knowledge exchange accelerate circular practices. Top organizations share best practices and expertise through the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 program. Promoting circularity requires government incentives and constraints. In its ambitious waste reduction and resource efficiency goals, the EU’s Circular Economy Action Plan emphasizes policy-driven circular initiatives. With collaboration and policy assistance, companies can overcome circular economy transition obstacles and establish a sustainable future.

For example, H&M’s “Closing the Loop” initiative improves fashion globally via sustainability, innovation and consumer engagement. To reduce fashion’s high clothing turnover and disposal, H&M tackled textile waste while keeping its trendsetting image. H&M’s “Garment Collection” recycles discarded clothes. Close the loop by recycling textiles to manufacture new ones and reduce waste. H&M is revolutionizing fashion by reducing virgin material use, boosting circular economy involvement and challenging the linear fashion paradigm. Clothing rushes required adequate collecting bin space and transportation network management. H&M taught employees to identify reused goods to ensure material quality. Education and awareness campaigns about textile waste and circular practices were needed to engage consumers. Sustainable and innovative practices at H&M show the flexibility needed to transition the fashion sector to a circular economy.

Sustainability in the circular economy will determine Earth’s future. As more companies and designers utilize circular concepts, garbage will become a resource and products will serve us without harming the environment. Circular processes can lessen the harmful effects of linear consumption and launch a creative, accountable and resilient environment. Circular economies can lead to sustainable wealth and environmental harmony. Maintain this transition to include circularity in communities, economies and daily life.

Majed Nezar Al-Qatari is a sustainability leader, ecological engineer and UN youth ambassador with experience in advancing environmental, social and corporate governance and sustainability goals in corporate businesses, nonprofit organizations and financial institutions.