“Simple can be harder than complex: you have to work hard to get your thinking clean and make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
Steve Jobs, Apple.
To be circular is to thrive within our planet’s natural boundaries. This requires a shift from a ‘take-make-use-waste’ economy to a ‘make-use-save’ economy. The move to a circular economy will require systems thinking, will deal with complex problems and challenge deep-rooted – perhaps unconscious – behaviours, though the end result might be simple. ECOBULK is part of that move.
Product design for a circular economy is a fundamental aspect of the ECOBULK project. The project considers design strategies that maximise the future value of materials and avoids waste. Within the detail, the ECOBULK project will keep to some clear principles:
Challenge every step: circular economy needs vision and fresh thinking. Challenge and be transparent about the need for the decisions we are making and how they contribute to circularity.
Minimise ecological footprint: the materials and processes used must strive to limit negative environmental impacts, whilst still addressing social, technical and economic needs. Environmental impact should be decreased through adapting the principles of the circular economy such as closing the resource use loop.
Keep the value: design for the hierarchy of durability, upgrading, adapting, repair, remanufacturing and parts harvesting. Recycling and composting are the last resorts.
Life cycle thinking: ensure decisions consider both the first and successive product lifecycles, are based on sound science and use LCA and other accepted analytical bases.
Demonstrate by doing: use the process of demonstration to test and show new technologies, processes and designs for the circular economy.
Better information: information is essential for valuable re-use or recycling of products and materials, especially in the case of composite material products, where the material properties are tailored to product needs. Information on material composition and product construction must be available for consumers, recovery activities and future generations who will harvest the value of materials we are using today.
Question the barriers: the fundamental shift to becoming circular may present us with seemingly insurmountable barriers. Define them, explain them, test them and propose how to get around them.
Work together: a company should work with other entities who are trying to ‘go circular’. Products are made of parts from the supply chain and all companies need to move towards a circular system. It cannot be done alone.