Creative solutions for a Circular Economy

How to rethink the creative process and commit to sustainability.

We have all heard of the environmental principle “reduce, re-use, re-cycle” which is aimed to help us strive for a greener future. But what happens when those products we are consuming cannot be re-used or recycled?

In 2017-18, Australia used some 3.4 million tonnes of plastics of which, only 9.4% was recycled[1] sending the remaining 90.6% to our landfills.

And, while plastic is one of the most widely used materials across all industries, most manufactured products are not designed with their end-of-life in mind and sadly contribute to waste. All industries have a stake in creating a sustainable future, and in doing so, it is imperative to integrate circular design into the creative process to eliminate or reduce waste.

This article will explore the concept of Circular Design and how brands should be using creativity to re-think their entire design solution for sustainability to be the desired outcome.

What is a Circular Economy and Circular Design?

A Circular Economy is a counterpoint to the world’s current and highly unsustainable linear economy of “take, make, waste”, meaning raw materials are extracted, used to manufacture products, consumed, and then discarded. A Circular Economy adopts Circular Design where by products are designed with the aim of staying in use for as long as possible with minimal waste and pollution. It considers the entire design solution, including how a product is sourced, made, used, and returned.

What are the guiding principles behind Circular Design?

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation recently created a model which is based on three simple principles[2].

1. Eliminate waste and pollution.

By removing waste from the product’s lifespan, products are designed and optimised for a cycle of disassembly and reuse.

2. Circulate products and materials.

Circularity requires a product’s components to be durable and prevents waste.

3. Regenerate nature.

The energy required to fuel a product’s cycle should be renewable by nature.

While there are many examples of brands applying these principles, one that is doing a good job at circulating products is The North Face who run a ‘Clothes the Loop’ program[3] aimed at reducing waste and extending the life of their products. The program incentivises customers to recycle their unwanted clothing or footwear which then either gets repurposed for reuse or recycled into raw materials for use in new products. Keeping clothes in use for as long as possible is a central strategy of a circular economy.

In summary, all industries are responsible for creating a sustainable future and can achieve this by re-thinking their products’ designs so that every stage of its lifespan is considered.

Is your brand currently applying a circular design or is this something your brand needs help with? The Brand Foundry has a team trained in Business Sustainability and can assist you with establishing and promoting your brand’s sustainability story. To learn more about how we can help your brand, contact us here.

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