A large number of our existing processes are linear in nature. They take in resources and change their form by concentrating, altering and synthesising them into products, many of which cannot be reused or recycled at the end of their intended use. The inability to reuse or recycle is because it has often been cheaper and easier to replace a product than to get it repaired in our economies.
Further, built-in obsolesce is designed into many products. These non-recyclable products often end up in landfills as industrial waste. Also, since the raw material cannot be recovered, these products are incinerated or released into water bodies leading to air and water contamination.
Environmental sustainability can be achieved by creating closed-loop supply chains. These closed-loop systems are designed to manage and explicitly consider the reverse and forward supply chain activities over the product’s entire life cycle. This involves recovering the materials used through the collection, recycling and recovery through mechanisms built and communicated to the end consumer.
Circular systems need significant efforts from stakeholders and the commitment to make a change. Moreover, creating a circular system means a realignment of all factories and suppliers in all the countries. Hence a dramatic shift would need to take place in the entire chain.
Circular systems should be understood, planned and implemented with a keen direction on restorative design. The focus has to be on restoring the environment and other ecosystems because the global push towards sustainability is also happening because of several macro forces around food, population, water, health, and climate change altering our world.
Companies focused on circular systems may evaluate some or all of the following
- Product as service models
- Services and products that extend the lifecycle through increased use cycles, repair or refurbishment services
- Products from available waste materials
- Smart materials that minimise waste or energy
- Low energy consumption models, smart grids and renewable energy sources like solar and wind