“Actions for circularity” workshops

“Actions for circularity” workshops

After a year of research into a circular design framework, the month 12 consortium meeting was used to put the new framework to the test. ECOBULK partners TUDelft and ITENE organized a set of workshops focused on each of the three industrial sectors – automotive, construction and furniture.

In the field of circular economy, the design focuses on keeping a product that has minimal impact on the environment and high economic value in circulation for as long as possible. This implies that the products should no longer have a cycle with a beginning, middle, and end. To achieve this, materials, product designs, business models, logistics and processes must all be adjusted and aligned to feed into each other minimizing waste and loss of economic value at each step.

The workshops were organized around the specific pilot products from the three targeted markets. These products were chosen as pilots during the baseline scenario development, so that during the project it is possible to measure and demonstrate an increase in circularity.

For each product, multi-disciplinary groups of experts applied a methodology designed to stimulate the design for recovery, the thinking of material value and subsequent product lifecycles. Each group consisted of both manufacturers and recyclers, and they discussed the different processes and what needs to be included in the design of the product from their own perspectives. Naturally, this led to conflicting design requirements or missing information, which was valuable information to capture so that it can be applied in closing the loop at a later stage.

Sector Reference Products
 Automotive Fascia Central Console
 Safety belt brackets
 Trim for central panel
 Central Console Cowlings
 Furniture Upholstered bed
 Building OSB structural panel
 Plywood structural panel
 Pillars outdoor
Figure 1: List of products discussed
The methodology consisted in 3 phases:Phase 1: The leader presents the product to rethink, indicating the current value chain of the product.Phase 2: Individual work by each work group member. Each person writes down ideas corresponding to each point of the circle considering 3 levels of Circular strategies: Energy recovery, materials recycling, and product level including remanufacturing, refurbishing, re-use and long use.Phase 3: Group work, where the team discuss collectively the individual contributions of phase 2, placing each idea on its appropriate category –actions & processes, challenges and design solutions-. This list of actions, challenges and potential solutions to improve the sustainability of each one of the products is, at the end, the intended outcome of the workshops.
Circular Strategies Framework

Figure 2: Template for Phase 2 and 3.

The significance of the workshops is no just related to the pilot products – the framework and design for circularity process itself needs testing and adjusting. At the moment there is no standardized methodology for circular design, and ECOBULK hopes to contribute to establishing such a standard. In particular, the new design framework will try to introduce a wider system thinking perspective into the early design phase of products. This should make it easier for designers and manufacturers to see the product within its specific context of production, life-extension and recovery. The design methodology will be used for the pilots to evaluate the various products and to establish the design interventions needed to make the recovery a success, and from that experience, more generalised lessons learnt can be applied to other similar industries and problems.

In the next few months, TUDelft and ITENE will analyse the results of the workshop, and with those they will be able to make further adjustments and refinements to improve the methodology. Please come back later for more information, we expect the full results to be published by the end of 2018.