So we’ve explored what it means for cities to adopt “circular economy” models, working to promote the consumption of infinite resources, resulting in a reduction of the consumption of finite resources.
Now, we’ll take a deeper look into the process required to begin designing for circularity, and how businesses can bring them to market to begin contributing to a successful circular economy.
Traditionally, businesses operate using the linear model of “take-make-waste”.
Designing circular products starts at the very beginning of the value chain, with the suppliers who are making the product components. In order to design products to be circular, the very material breakdown must be considered.
Let’s take a pair of jeans.
We all have that one pair of jeans that provides the extra stretch needed after a weekend of unhealthy choices, and then we’ve got the jeans that might lack in stretch, but fit just perfectly. While those stretchy jeans certainly serve a purpose, they also require a special blend of materials to give them that extra layer of flexibility. The problem with these “special blends” is that they are often made up of a mixture of natural materials and synthetic materials. While the natural materials may eventually breakdown into compost(1–5 years), the synthetic material can take anywhere from 20–200 years. Furthermore, jeans are often made using harmful chemicals that result in harm to the environment and harm to the garment workers who are exposed to them everyday. Basically, the mixture for a perfect storm.
Never fear, the circular alternative is here.
Now consider the circular alternative where the jean supplier chooses to use only two materials, that break down similarly and do not require any harsh chemicals. Choosing to use natural materials in the production process ensures a life-time success for the product. Natural materials allow for longer wear and use, and can be re-used over and over because they have been designed to be easily taken apart and put back together for a new lifetime of wear.
This takes an extra level of mindfulness from the suppliers at the beginning of the supply chains, to consider using alternative, natural materials.
In the past, the sustainable option was often more expensive, ultimately leaving the burden on the manufacturer and their ability to put food on the table. Fortunately, the availability of natural materials is becoming increasingly accessible each day. With the new affordable options, we create a win-win scenario for every party involved in the lifecycle of a circular product.
Look for the businesses that support these new models and products and consider becoming a customer. As consumers, this is how we play a role in moving away from the take-make-waste linear models and into a world that promotes circular models of:
In our next post, we’ll take a deeper look into what businesses are paving the way in designing circular products.