It began in the Netherlands.
In 1995, the Netherlands banned landfills. With a population density of 1050 per square mile (5th among the world’s 100 largest countries, 35 times that in the US) the Netherlands was running out of space.
If you don’t have space for garbage, waste becomes a design flaw. You develop industries to recover resources and isolate hazards from products at the end of their usable lives. For example, there is a thriving industry in Holland that recycles refrigerators from all over Europe, an industry that uses skilled labor, artificial intelligence, and robotics.
You start rethinking about products, how they are designed, built, used, and disposed of. And you start to notice the need for end of product-life recovery processes, and for product design and manufacture to include resource recovery.
What began in the Netherlands is now called circular design.
Circular design has four components:
- Longevity: design a long use
- Design for service and leasing: design for maximum use by maximum users, often using the product-sharing business model
- Design for re-use: design so products and components can be redeployed and re-used
- Design for material recovery: design so it is economical to extract valuable or dangerous materials
And the elements of success:
- Rapid prototyping: create, test, and learn
- Knowledge sharing: grow knowledge across the network
- Fixing and customization: fixing and hacking for re-use
- Re-thinking material streams: find the value in scrap materials
- Unlocking information flows: deploy sensor-driven data tracking
Could this be the spark for a multinational entrepreneurial vigor?
Image Credit: Designing for a circular economy, RSA Action and Research Centre
For more information on circular design, visit the RSA’s Great Recovery website.