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The Circular Economy: From Consumer to User

Joe Iles

With the price of resources and energy becoming increasingly volatile, can today's linear economy work in the long term?

What if we didn't buy the goods we use, but instead favoured access and performance over ownership? This short animation from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation introduced the idea, and suggests how it could work for businesses, users, and the wider economy.

A performance model is part of the solution when making the transition to a regenerative circular economy.

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  • Amber Brandner

    Great video. I just came back from South America what a change in world view I gained... I want to share this video as well, in fact the site below has many simple videos explaining complex ideas. Often I share these videos with friends who may not have any idea about where our stuff comes from, the processes and products involved, or what we can do to change things, I love sharing these... this ones on change

  • Adele Peters

    Nice video. I agree that if manufacturers took ownership of products, they'd do a better job of designing for longevity (or designing a product to be taken back, if it's not meant to last long and can't easily be recycled or composted). The logistics are hard to figure out for some products, but it's an important step.

    They didn't talk much here about some other ways of putting products in systems- for example, tool libraries that lend out tools, or neighbor-to-neighbor product sharing sites like Neighborgoods. There are some good community-based (and free) product-service systems out there, not only business opportunities.

  • Jeff Nelder

    I completely agree with the concept and love the illustration. The articulation may be a bit complex in places, and if access is the key, maybe simplification of the language would increase access to the concept.

    I also wonder about what happens if companies don't all adopt this at once- will competitive pressures from an early adopter reward the company with first mover advantage- or will companies who take an early step here be at a disadvantage- it would be interesting to add this piece of information to the video to empower the viewership to carry the message and concept.

  • Diana Ahrens

    really curious how the economics work out for "leasing" across different industries as compared to auto.

    • Joe Iles

      Good question - and we don't know the whole picture yet, and it will work better for some products than others...but in the example of washing machine:

      A low end washing machine costs the user $27c per wash, whereas a higher end machine costs the user just $12c per wash - as the machines last for an average of 5 times longer - ie. 10,000 washes as oppose to 2,000 washes. Therefore what we discovered, looking at a circular economy model was that a leased machine would cost the user a better service at a better price, without the outlay of buying a new high end expensive machine. Plus, the manufacturer could reclaim the product and materials at end of life.

      Hopefully more research will provide a clearer picture across a wider variety of industries.

  • Eli Kaufman

    Love the idea of making "planned obsolescence" obsolete! I get so frustrated buying electronics and appliances that I know will be outdated before I feel like they have served their purpose. I'm all for a circular economy!

    • Hannah Wasserman

      I like the idea of companies having a stake in making products that last, as well. Although it's a cliche, they really don't make things like they used to! My parents had the same microwave for 20 years and it finally broke two years ago. They replaced it and within a year and a half the new one broke. So much waste!

    • Lisa Rau Cannon

      Agreed - having foresight in technology would help avoid the waste! Reminds me of the Y2K debacle...

      • Sharon Lipinski

        I hadn't heard of the fixer's manifesto before. Very cool! I fixed my washer machine a few months ago by watching you tube videos which helped me diagnose the problem, order the new motor, and replace it. I was so proud of myself!