Circular Economy Faces Consumer Challenges

posted 02.07.2013

[caption id="attachment_5220" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="The Circular Economy"][/caption]

Katie McGuire, Associate Director of consultancy group CO2 spoke at last month?s annual Carpet Recycling UK?s conference about the difficulties in the creation of a true circular economy. In this speech she emphasised a need to adapt consumer and manufacturing habits.

McGuire was eager to point out that a radical shift in thinking was required to address material scarcity, and consumption patters will need to change if finite resource availability is to not threaten the business continuity in all industries.

This new radical way of thinking is centred on the need for reuse to take over from ownership. McGuire highlighted a number of business case studies which demonstrated this principle and pointed to a need for purchasing to be replaced by leasing.

Whilst referring to the example of a fridge she explained that under this shift the manufacturer would lease the fridge which it still owns, maintains and repairs. This would encourage the manufacture of a fridge with easy and minimal maintenance and reusability. This would move away from mass consumerism and the need to own products.

Whether we will see this shift in consumer behaviour remains to be seen and will require some big changes in manufacturing and retailing. We are all aware that consumption patterns remain unsustainable and whilst recovering materials at end of life can ensure that we lose less material we undoubtedly need to address the need for increased levels of reusability. This ultimately will need manufacturers to design and build products with reuse in mind, considering how products can extend their lifecycle as well as having an end of life plan.

Leasing may threaten existing business models and a clear business case must be presented to companies in order to demonstrate the benefits.

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Category: environment, industry, recycling