Circular design – The Circular Design Guidebook ndion –


In the Circular Design Guidebook, the polymer manufacturer Covestro presents approaches and strategies for how the transition to a circular economy can be successful.

By Martina Metzner

Circular Design Guide © Covestro

Covestro is one of the world’s leading producers of high-tech polymer materials. The company’s products and application solutions can be found in many areas of modern life. Innovation and sustainability drive the group to always new developments – both in its products as well as in its processes and systems.

In the Circular Design Guidebook, published in 2020, Covestro presents approaches and strategies for how the transition to a circular economy can succeed. Instead of the linear economy, the circular economy should be the driving force for the future in all sectors. The core of the circular economy is to use resources efficiently, extend the life of products and make them more recyclable. The guide not only defines the concept of circular economy, it also explains how production can be transformed. The only solution for the economy is a comprehensive shift to circular business models that reduce the consumption of natural resources as much as possible and close production cycles. This guide provides a valuable framework for product designers addressing the resource constraints of a linear economy and the opportunities of a circular economy.

With the headlight module concept from Covestro, significantly fewer parts are required. This saves materials. © Covestro

For a sustainable transition from a linear to a circular economy, product design plays a crucial but often underestimated role, affecting all phases of production, use and recycling. Product designers thus have the opportunity to influence a product’s paths, regardless of whether they are linear or circular, already in the design phase. This is not just about recyclable materials alone, but about a systematic life cycle approach to material selection.

The demand for raw materials is increasing

Global demand for key raw materials comes primarily from five industries: energy, transportation, healthcare, defense and electronics. Due to population growth and the rapid development of technology, the raw material requirements of these industries are constantly increasing. However, the stock of natural resources will not be sufficient to meet this increasing demand. As we face a shortage of natural resources, the large amount of waste generated by the “take>make>dispose” economic system of the last 200 years should be turned into resources. Recycling is the big key word here: if the material is reusable and recyclable, and the original product can be easily disassembled, cleaned and sorted, while being in sufficient quantity, its recycling as a new resource can be achieved.

A circular economy is an economic development model that aims to decouple resource consumption from economic growth through regenerative and regenerative and restorative concepts. It consists of the following principles, according to Covestro’s Circular Design Guidebook: 1. Change starts at the source, 2. A change of perspective – waste is a resource, 3. Maintain a high quality use, 4. Think in cycles (biological and technical cycle )

Five strategies for circular economy

The establishment of a business model for the circular economy is achieved through “circular design”. The Covestro Circular Design Guidebook presents five circular economy strategies and analyzes how they relate to the value chain and business models. In doing so, Covestro draws on research published by leading international organizations and academic researchers and examines the five strategies for circular design in relation to the electronics, electrical and home appliance industries. These include dematerialization, product as a service, design for extended product life, circular material selection and modular design.

Circular Design Guide
CMF toolkit chips: Material selection is the first step in cycle design, © Covestro

The last chapter of the Circular Design Guidebook deals with material selection. As far as physical products are concerned, the implementation of all circular design strategies requires material selection. This chapter introduces a systematic material selection process to help designers open the door to circular economy and sustainability. The right choice of material can achieve an effect of 80 percent. Material selection is the first step in circuit design. When designing a physical product, material selection can have several implications. It affects not only the energy and resource efficiency of the product and the resource efficiency of the product, but also the size of the market for recycled materials.

Guide to material selection

How can designers ensure successful material selection? The guidance highlights two important aspects:

1) Circularity throughout the life cycle: It is important not only to choose recyclable materials, but also materials that promote the circular nature of the product.

2) Towards a broader approach to sustainability: is the best material the one that improves the circularity of a product? Not necessarily. To put it pragmatically, electronic products must not only comply with the recycling concept, but also with the increasingly strict safety regulations, energy efficiency requirements and environmental certifications.

In response to the topics just discussed, this guide provides a material selection process and worksheets that include these three main features: the product life cycle framework, evaluation criteria and quantitative indicators, and a scalable framework for sustainability indicators. The process is broken down into three steps, with worksheets in Covestro’s Circular Design Guide Book intended to help with each step.

1) Preparation: Formation of a transversal project that brings together the project team and a joint strategic analysis with product goals.

2) Evaluation of indicators for assessment: Using Worksheet 2, the team selects the criteria for the product assessment criteria and quantitative indicators, and then makes an assessment of the current status.

3) Evaluating the New Material: Combining Worksheet 3 and Worksheet 4, the team selects a target component, searches for materials, gathers information, and then creates a new evaluation to compare to the current evaluation.

Meet the innovators at K22: Covestro Design Day

Together with Covestro loading Advice on formg on 23 October 2022 for Covestro Design Day under K in Düsseldorf. Visitors have the opportunity to learn from young design talents and renowned designers how they use circular design, the current challenges and future opportunities.

To the program

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