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Existing or new product?
If you are thinking about making an existing product more circular, there are several ways to go about it:
  • Recycled, recyclable or renewable materials used as inputs for other products rather than using non-renewable materials (e.g a plywood supplier who provides a furniture maker with plywood which uses an innovative adhesive inspired by the way mussels adhere to rocks, instead of formaldehyde glue).
  • Product as a service – where ownership is replaced by usage (e.g. urban bike rental or car sharing). Long term repair and maintenance can be part of the service. Even companies such as Philips is moving into this area offering business consumer to pay per actual consumed light and not buying the needed infrastructure (e.g. lamps, cables, controls).
  • Extending the life of the product through repairing, upgrading or remanufacturing (e.g. selling refurbished/repaired mobile phones or computers rather than new ones).
  • Recover and recycle to obtain useful resources from disposed products or by-products, the most common ones are re-use of waste streams. (e.g. discarded clothing, shoes or accessories from retailers are turned into valuable products such as insulation, carpet underlays, stuffed toys and shoe insoles).
If you are thinking about developing a completely new product, then you need to be aware that circular principles need to be embedded from the first design of your product, and you need to make sure that the issue of end-of-use recovery is addressed from the start. You need to bear in mind:
  • All the steps needed from the original of the (raw) materials to the doorstep of your client (pre-use);
  • Minimise the waste when your product is used;
  • Preventing and reducing waste by designing the product in such a way that materials can be re-used/recycled and re-enter a useful life after usage (post-use).

Go on-line and check out the many case studies and examples available to get inspired.

There is a growing base of products and packaging that are prioritising reducing and preventing waste but at the same time are successful on the market, get inspired here:

Sustainable designs that offer alternatives to everyday products

Design for waste prevention and systems-thinking

Here is a great example of circular business from Ireland – the video showcases how an electronics enterprise, MicroPro, has created its business model using circualr principles: