Circular economy tool maps business contenders

An infographic highlighting current business models that could power innovation towards a circular economy has been unveiled to encourage ideas around alternative, resource-efficient solutions.

The infographic, drawn up by WRAP, showcases a range of different models, from closed loop recycling to service-based solutions built on material optimisation.

At the heart of the graphic are models based around dematerialised services, offering product benefits where the physical product does not exist at the point of use, such as answerphone services.

Such models have the potential to change consumption patterns and deliver potential material savings, however WRAP points out that this must be balanced against the materials used in the surrounding service infrastructure.

Examples include services like Spotify and Love Film, which provide on-demand delivery of music and film via internet or mail using outsourced/public infrastructure with minimal overheads.

Cloud Computing is another successful concept, where email and document management services are managed on virtual software platforms running on out-of-house hardware.

Product service systems are also gaining in popularity, where the product may be designed for long life, short life or a mix depending upon the optimum output requirements. Designing for disassembly, remanufacture and reuse also fits in here.

Rolls Royce for instance sell its engine’s thrust as ‘power by the hour’, which includes full in-use monitoring, servicing, repair, remanufacture and replacement.

Other examples include Interface FLOR who sell flooring services through its evergreen lease option. Here floor tiles are designed using biomimicry for remanufacture once they wear out.

One step removed from these are more traditional hire and leasing models which encourage a longer term approach to product durability with lower maintenance load and lower use of materials and carbon.

Incentivised return and reuse schemes are the next tier down. Here customers gain value for unwanted items and return products via a convenient system such as the one Tesco offers with its electrical trade-in scheme.

A similar scheme run by Amazon allows users to trade in their books or video games for a gift voucher. The product is then made available for resale.

Long life/product longevity and closed/open loop recycling are at the fringes of the map where products are designed for disassembly, as well as recovery of post-consumer goods and components for reuse or recycling into equivalent or similar new product.

Maxine Perella

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