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A Brief Introduction into Circular Economy

The ever-increasing pressure on world’s resources has made it necessary to find solutions that would mitigate the accumulation of waste. Both the rapid development of technology and the general public’s access to it have created a continuous impetus for companies to produced newer, better, upgraded products. This unfortunately translates into a short product life and more waste.

Circular economy came as a necessary approach to maximise the use of a resource while minimising its waste. This has brought many challenges and continues to require many market adjustments. However, many countries have introduced circular economy into their core sustainability strategies. The European Commission has adopted an Action Plan as a part of its green Agenda that sets to normalise sustainable products, eco-design and a lower the environmental impact of all production processes.

 

Circular economy operates based on 2 main principles: keep the product in use for as long as possible and recycle it (the product has to be re-introduced into use after the end of its life cycle). Ideally, a sustainable product design should include the following “Rs” as production guidelines:

  • Reuse– the product should be designed for the longest possible lifespan
  • Repair- the product should provide the user with the possibility of repair instead of replacement;
  • Remanufacture- the product should be produced in order to allow for reassembly and refurbishing to reduce the resource input
  • Recycle- the wastes should be convertible into new materials and products.

 

In order to have a comprehensive understanding of a product’s potential for a sustainable, circular economy, the life cycle assessment method was introduced. The life cycle approach is not only vital for the management of a new product or service in a sustainability sensitive market, it is also important in understanding and mitigating the environmental impact of the various industrial processes behind it. This year, IDN has been focusing on selecting the optimal LCA software solutions available for various industrial branches targeting products, packaging and production lines. SME growth, one of the main focus areas for IDN, is one of the areas that benefit the most from this methodology by:

  • comparing products’ environmental impact;
  • elaborating quick cost-benefit analyses of various production lines;
  • compare real and hypothetical scenarios such as existing products, packages and production lines with prototypes;
  • making LCA into an important, effective tool in decision-making .