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Designing for the Circular Economy

2nd January 2020

European 2020 Strategy

The European 2020 strategy was proposed by the European Commission on 3 March 2010. The strategy is the EU’s agenda for growth and jobs for the current decade. 

It emphasises smart, sustainable and inclusive growth in order to improve Europe’s competitiveness and productivity and underpin a sustainable social market economy. An important aspect of this strategy was the Circular Economy; a new model for sustainable production and consumption.

The Circular Economy

The circular economy proposes ways to “close the loop” of product lifecycles. It puts a major emphasis on finding new, innovative means to move away from a ‘take-make-dispose’ culture, for instance by recycling and re-using products for longer. 

Extending the lifetime of products is a central enabler of the circular economy, and reusing products and their components, as well as remanufacturing, is one of its key strategies. Reuse conserves the physical assets of raw materials as well as the energy embedded in products or components. It is important to learn from this framework, and apply this to any of our design projects.  

How does this impact Design?

This has an impact on the way we design products and which materials we choose for packaging. Making sure the product causes as little carbon footprint as possible is always at the forefront of our design decisions.

We should be asking questions about where materials are sourced and how eco-friendly they are? Will the designs benefit the environment rather than damage it?

In mid-2019, we designed an eco-product range for Horwood Homewares. The range was named ‘Smidge’, after the ethos surrounding the product range. Products in the range were made from 100% bio-degradable material, allowing the products to return to the earth from where they came. 

During this design process, liaison was an integral part of the project. The material which we were using to create the product was one which we hadn’t used before, and so, ensuring its capabilities were inline with our designs was extremely important.  

Eco-conscious decisions were also made regarding the products packaging. Minimal packaging was chosen over unnecessary cardboard and plastic. Sticker labels were used on cups, mugs, chopping boards and plates, resulting in less packaging. 

The range has been received extremely well by the industry resulting in positive sales results and high demand for more products to be made in 2020. Watch this space for more… 

Useful Links

Ellen Macarthur Foundation
Circular Economy Interactive Infographic
Smidge Case Study