The model for a sustainable world is perhaps best characterised by the concept of a circular economy. In simple terms this idea seeks to move away from production of goods to satisfy demand to consider more widely the entire lifecycle of the goods in production, use, and disposal. The idea is to maximise the life of goods before disposal. Goods should be more versatile in design to allow wider use or adaptation for new applications, repairable components, upgradeable components, easy transfer to new owners or uses. If beyond repair, then consideration should have been given in initial design to allow for easy recycling of materials, with minimal waste.  This idea is referred to “Cradle to Cradle”

This is not unfamiliar to certain industry sectors, very expensive and complex equipment such as aircraft are designed with long life, efficient operation, maintenance and upgrade in mind. In the end such equipment is carefully dismantled to reuse or recycle. Much of the focus is in consumer supply area, where economic pressure has tended to favour single use items, with consumers influenced by price and features rather than lifecycle analysis. Fast fashion is often cited as the example of the worst example of this – where once durable goods have now become almost throwaway. This is changing, with consumer outlook shifting and legislative pressure growing. Leading UK retailer Selfridges is now promoting rental or sale of used items, as well as looking to promote longer life clothing.

The go-to source of information on the Circular Economy is the Ellen MacArthur Foundation. Concepts that feed into this idea also include those from the Stockholm Institute and Doughnut Economics.