The R Strategies to Drive Circular Change
Aktualisiert: 6. Juli
Nowadays, most companies deal with the topic of sustainability and even think of transforming towards more circularity. But both topics are based on complex theories, frameworks and statistics. What all this means for a company in concrete terms usually remains open. Within the context of Circular Economy, strategies were defined that can be applied to achieve the three circular principles: (1) reduce the consumption of natural resources and materials, (2) minimize waste production and (3) regenerate natural systems.
The strategies can be divided into three groups, ranging from higher to lower degree of circularity as shown in Figure 1:
Figure 1: Overview Circular Strategies
The 3Ds in DESIGN
Companies applying these 3Ds will have the biggest impact on their current business model. They start at the very beginning of a value chain and change what they have been doing so far.
The refuse strategy consists of making a product or service abandon its function or offering the same function with a radically different product or service. It is the answer to the question of whether that product is the best response to consumer and societal needs. Examples of this strategy include rejecting all over-packaged products, disposable products and materials that will not be easily recycled at the end of their useful life.
Make product use more intensive (e.g., by sharing products, placing multifunctional products on the market or extending product life).
On the one hand, it is possible to reduce the material requirements of the end product through design measures or to optimize the requirements of the manufacturing processes through process optimization.
The 5D in Consumption
Part of our lives is consumption. We consume energy, clothes and food, and most of it is designed to be thrown away. Applying the 5D allows companies to create more circular and sustainable products.
The reuse strategy consists of having one consumer use the discarded product for another, which is still in good condition and fulfills its original function.
Repair and maintenance of a defective product so that it can be used for its original function. The repairability of a product refers to the resolution of a specific problem detected in a product. The warranty associated with this repair only covers the problem detected and does not cover the rest of the product's components.
The concept of advanced repair makes it possible to extend the life of components and products, which can be of great relevance when considering a change of business model from ownership to pay-per-use or servitization.
Product refurbishment involves the cosmetic improvement of a product to make it look like new.
Refurbishment includes diagnosis and simple repairs of the product in the event that a problem is detected. It is aimed at the second-hand market. The main difference with the repair strategy lies in the complexity and scope of the work to be performed on the product. While refurbishment aims at an aesthetic improvement of the product and involves a low degree of complexity, repair aims at restoring the original function of a defective product and involves a higher degree of complexity than refurbishment.
The remanufacturing strategy consists of using parts of the discarded product in a new product with the same or different functions.
Remanufacturing not only covers the aspects of refurbishment and reconditioning together, but can even include aspects of modernization and improvement on the product. The result is a product with equal or better performance than the original and the same warranties as a new product.
According to the United Nations study "Redefining value - The manufacturing revolution. Remanufacturing, refurbishment, repair and direct reuse in the circular economy" there is a reduction in GHG emissions of around 90-85% for remanufactured products taking into account their life cycle compared to new products (specifically for automobiles, printers and heavy machinery). Moreover, according to this same study, the manufacturing cost of a remanufactured product would be 15-20% lower than that of a new product for the same sectors.
Use the discarded product or its parts in a new product with a different function.
2Rs in RETURN - Giving Value to Waste
The last two Rs aim to give value to waste that can’t longer be reused, refurbished or remanufactured. This means that materials are supposed to be returned as resources to the same or new value chain. The last option here would be to be transformed into energy.
Process materials to obtain products with the same quality, higher quality (upcycling or suprarecycling) or lower quality (downcycling or undercycling).
This strategy consists of incineration of materials with energy recovery. Although it occupies the penultimate place in the European waste management hierarchy, it is normally a desirable resource prior to waste disposal, which would involve sending it to landfill or incineration without energy recovery.
The 10 Rs help to find your sustainable alternative
The world is shifting towards sustainability. We see and feel the demand from business partners, customers, the public, and politics.
However, many companies still find it difficult to implement effective changes in their processes. The 10 Rs from the Circular Economy show companies efficient approaches to achieve sustainability goals.
In our Circulix framewor we mapped the r strategies in more detail to relevant data points along the value chain. We help companies make data-driven decisions to prioritize strategies in terms of their positive impact, find appropriate partners, and implement the strategies.