Within this field, debate is now shifting to how best to measure circularity at product level. According to leading closed loop thinker Ramon Arratia, European sustainability director at Interface, post-consumer recycled content will be one of the easiest ways to gauge this.

“A product with more post-consumer recycled content assures you that someone has bothered to recycle something into a valuable product,” he explained.

He said that while this figure can be calculated by weight, it doesn’t necessarily give a sense of value of the circularity as low value stuff can be heavy. Other factors have to be added in such as the amount of carbon required to make the product.

“This is interesting because post-consumer recycled stuff is mostly less carbon intensive than virgin and if not, then the recycling process is badly designed anyway,” he pointed out.

“This takes into account value indirectly because more complex materials normally have a bigger carbon footprint. This metric would favour recycling entire components over chucking them into recycled materials to make new components. As well as CO2, other indicators such as abiotic depletion could be utilised.”

Arratia said that durability and recyclability were also important – while durability can be measured through warranty and real life time of product, recyclability was more tricky.

“At product level you could measure the parts of a product that can be dismantled, and again a focus on value is key. We should, and will, investigate this further,” he maintained.

The waste industry is starting to engage on how best to contribute towards work in this area through a circular economy taskforce, which launched earlier this month. One of the main aims of the taskforce is to tackle the threat of rising resource costs through developing smarter reuse and recovery solutions.

Ramon Arratia is one of edie’s thought leaders. His latest opinion piece can be read here

Maxine Perella

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