Design for a Circular Economy

August 2019—The frustration we are all feeling about the state of recycling is ultimately a design problem. We have designed trashy systems instead of circular ones, what people in the engineering field refer to as Take-Make-Waste.

So it’s exciting to see the Circular Economy evolve from concept to practice. At Circular19, practitioners shared best practices. TerraCycle, known for recycling plastic, is questioning recycling all together.

Not convinced that recycling really addresses the root cause of waste, TerraCycle came up with the Loop program that launched in May in the United States and France. Loop literally throws away the idea of single-use containers, recyclable or not. Szaky pointed out that as companies work to make their packaging cheaper, there is an ever-diminishing amount of value for recyclers to even bother with. It appears to be a one-way street towards a dead-end.

Soon you may be buying ice cream in reusable stainless steel containers instead of those plastic/paper composite cartons.

This article highlights some of the progress being made. Charlotte NC has a Circular Economy program that starts by creating 5 new businesses.

As a starting point for translating the strategy into action, we proposed five circular business cases which which together could divert up to 15% of the waste from landfill, create up to 492 new jobs, and generate up to $34 million in revenues. We are currently working with city officials and partners to operationalize these business cases, one of which is an Innovation Barn that will showcase circular practices in action. (Source: