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Circular Economy

How are products designed?

Designing for a circular economy can be done in different ways. Design models, design strategies and basic principles are shown below.

Four design models

There are four design models in a circular economy:

  1. Design for longevity;
  2. Design for leasing/service;
  3. Design for re-use in manufacture; and
  4. Design for material recovery.

RSA, 2013 p. 4

Design strategies

Designing for a circular economy can be done using six strategies:

  1. Design for product attachment and trust;
  2. Design for product durability;
  3. Design for standardization & compatibility;
  4. Design for ease of maintenance and repair;
  5. Design for upgradability & adaptability;
  6. Design for dis- and reassembly..
Bakker, den Hollander, van Hinte, & Zijlstra. 2014

Design in systems & new business models

Designing in a circular economy is about five principles:

  1. Elevates design to a systems level;
  2. Strives to maintain product integrity;
  3. Is about cycling at a different pace;
  4. Explores new relationships and experiences with products;
  5. Is driven by different business models.
Bakker, den Hollander, van Hinte, & Zijlstra. 2014

Design for recycling

Design for recycling is possible by preferring materials and components which can be recycled easily; by developing subcomponents for recycling and by minimizing the diversity in materials.

Kennisplatform Duurzaam Grondstofbeheer, Duurzaam grondstoffenbeheer en productontwerp, p.14-20

Design for disassembly

Design for disassembly is also a possibility in a circular economy. This is done by creating multiple modular parts, which can be easily separated from each other, and taking into account the complexity (tools, time, manpower) required for the disassembly-process.

Kennisplatform Duurzaam Grondstofbeheer, Duurzaam grondstoffenbeheer en productontwerp, p.21-26

Work with waste sector

The waste and resources sector can help to ensure that all products and their packaging are designed to be easily reused, dismantled and recycled. The use of difficult to recycle composite materials can be minimised.

ESA, 2012 p. 4

Circularity in products on all timescales

Circularity needs to be integrated in products of all timescales to achieve mainstreaming. These include short timescale-products, mainly fast mover consumer goods; medium-timescale products, mainly appliances and equipment; and long-timescale products, mainly buildings and infrastructure. With regards to the long-timescale-products, thinking about circularity has a higher priority because of the product lifetime.

Aldersgate Group, 2012 pp. 15–16

Circular Mobile Device Design

For designing a mobile device, the characteristics for circular design have been summarized to:

  • Produce to last;
  • Easy to disassemble;
  • Build in modular parts;
  • Use standardised components and joints;
  • Use upgradeable components;
  • Use uncontaminated material flows;
  • Materials cycle through the various cycles of circularity (‘waste’ is used as input); and
  • Prefer more tight cycles of circularity throughout the life of the product.
Poppelaars, 2014