The ECOBULK Vision

The ECOBULK Vision


“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. 

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Design
Design for
Modularity
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Material
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Manufacture
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Retailer
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User
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Waste
Collection
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This is a traditional linear model
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What if we change from a linear model to a circular one
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Recycle
Recovery
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Refurbish
Remanufacture
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Repair
Upgrade
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Interconnected
Platform
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With the new circular model and by designing for modularity we can…
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Ease:
Recycling & recovery
of materials
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Implement and make:
Modular parts
Reuse components
Intermediate products
(Re)manufacture
(Re)furbish
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Provide:
Extended life
Second life
Personalization
Repair / upgrade
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Ease:
Customization
Upgrading
Maintaining
Doing it yourself
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Revalorize:
Waste

Reduce:
Leakage
Create business opportunities for all
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Glossary of key terms:

Business model

An organisations chosen system of decisions and activities that determines how it creates, delivers and captures value over time. 

Circular economy

A circular economy entails decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resource and designing waste and pollution out of the system.  It aims to keep products and materials in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life[1].  A circular economy should build economic and social capital and regenerate natural systems.   

Composite materials

A composite material is composed of at least two materials, which combine to give properties superior to those of the individual constituents.  They typically result in lighter, stronger, more durable solutions compared to traditional materials[2].  Composites are hybrid materials, the composition of which is determined by their components.  The most familiar man-made composites are a polymer matrix reinforced by fibres of glass, carbon or Kevlar.     

Composting

Process of controlled biological decomposition of biodegradable materials under managed conditions that are predominantly aerobic and that allow the development of thermophilic temperatures as a result of biologically produced heat[3]

Disposal

Any operation which is not recovery (see below) – even where the operation has a secondary consequence or leads to the reclamation of substances or of energy6.  This includes disposal by incineration where the incineration plant does not meet the EUs R1 energy recovery status[4].

Prevention

Measures taken before a substance, material or product has become waste that reduce the quantity of waste, the adverse impacts of the generated waste on environment and human health and the content of harmful substances in materials and products6.

Recovery

Any operation, the principal result of which is waste serving a useful purpose by replacing other materials which would otherwise have been used to fulfil a particular function, or waste being prepared to fulfil that function in the plant or wider economy6.  This includes incineration facilities where the plant meets the EUs Recovery plant (R1) energy recovery status4

Recycling

Any recovery operation by which waste materials are reprocessed into products, materials or substances whether for the original or other purposes.  It includes the reprocessing of organic material but does not include energy recovery and the reprocessing into materials that are to be used as fuels or for backfilling operations6.

Remanufacturing

Returning a used product to at least its original performance with a warranty that is equivalent to or better than that of the newly manufactured product[5].

Repair

Return a faulty or broken product, component or material back to a usable state.  A repair may use remanufactured or reconditioned parts4.

Reuse

Any operation by which products or components that are not waste are used again for the same purpose for which they were conceived6.

Systems thinking

A holistic approach to understanding how different parts of a system can influence one another and the relationship of the system to the parts over time[6]

Waste

Any substance or object which the holder discards or intends or is required to discard[7].

Waste hierarchy

The priority order in waste prevention and management: prevention, reuse, recycling, recover, disposal6.

 

 

[1] Adopted from The Ellen Macarthur Foundation and the UKs Waste Resources Action Programme

[2] Taken from Composites UK

[3] Taken from PAS100-2011, Specification for composted materials.

[4] See EU guidance on R1 status

[5] Taken from BS 8887‑2:2009 Design for manufacture, assembly, disassembly and end-of-life processing. Terms and definitions 

[6] Taken from BS 8001:2017, framework for implementing the principles of the circular economy in organizations- Guide

[7] Taken from the EU Waste Framework Directive