Getting Beyond the Linear Economy

Already taking hold in Europe and parts of Asia, ‘circular economy’ principles are making their way to North America. Product stewards who influence product design should be aware of potential regulatory requirements that could support a circular economy approach to product design.

If the ‘linear economy’ is characterized by a ‘Take, Make, Use, Dispose’ philosophy, then the circular economy is an alternate concept, aimed at keeping products and their materials in play for longer periods of time.

“Designing products that last longer or are in use longer will be a purer form of the circular economy,” says John Ortiz, product stewardship manager for desktop and enterprise printing at Hewlett-Packard Company. “It might include upgradeability, refurbishment, or empowering customers with service options. Enabling business models that change the ownership of products throughout the product lifecycle will influence design and change incentives that will enable more circular thinking.”

At Stewardship 2015, Ortiz will lead The Circular Economy as a Driver for Product Stewardship Innovation, an education session about opportunities for companies to incorporate circular economy concepts into their programs. He’ll illustrate how circular economy principles apply to a company’s portfolio of products or services, with examples from HP’s initiatives.

For example, product stewards can influence whether products are designed with recycled materials, with modularity in mind, or for future disassembly and recycling. “Are you designing with enough forethought? How does your product look at the end of its service life,” says Ortiz. “I see product stewards in an advocacy role within the business, convincing senior management that this is a direction to go, and also developing the data to show how it can be done profitably.”


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