What do Renault, Philips, Ricoh and Heineken have in common? They're all leading proponents of "circular" manufacturing, which seeks to reduce the use of materials and energy in manufacturing products and services and then recover as much of the end products as possible through reuse and recycling. The "take-make-dispose" economic model won't work in a resource-constrained world, say its advocates.
At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, manufacturing and economic leaders said circular manufacturing offered a way to decouple growth from resource constraints in a world economy that will add 3 billion middle-class consumers in the next 15 years. It also offers companies a new way to manage the risk associated with more volatile commodity prices and availability.
Circular manufacturing offers companies incentives for product design innovations, new business models and technologies to recover materials and reuse them.
The economic potential for using materials more sparingly is huge. The European market for fast-moving consumer goods such as cell phones totals €3.2 trillion a year, of which 20% could be recuperated through smart circular practices, Ellen MacArthur, founder of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, United Kingdom, said.