Circularity strategies

Conceptually, circular design is not directly based on a traditional life-cycle approach. In that sense, strategies for circular design are slightly different from those of ecodesign. However, when comparing ecodesign strategies and circular design approaches (Figure 12.4), some similarities are found. While ‘refuse/rethink’ circular approaches are aligned with the “new concept development" ecodesign strategies, ‘reuse/repair/refurbish’ could be related to ‘optimisation of lifetime’ and ‘remanufacture/ repurpose/recycle/recover’ to ‘optimisation of end-of-life.' Despite the fact that this can be used as a reference, other strategies seem to be more useful for circular design by conception.


Long-lasting strategies allow products or materials to be kept for as long as possible in the system. In that sense, design is focused on increasing the use of products by durability approaches but also by easing repair and maintenance. These strategies are like those for environmentally based strategies focused on lifetime optimisation. The most difficult issue under this topic is to design for emotional durability, where products should avoid obsolescence through user love, trust, and added value.


For the loop-lasting strategy, issues related to the fact that a product finishes its life for a user are considered. Then, the product enters a new loop: to be reused, repaired, and so on until it ends in recovering. Actions here rely on design for recyclability but also for refurbishing, repurposing, and cascading with other users. This strategy meets both the ecodesign strategies on lifetime and end-of-life optimisation.


For the bioinspired/biobased the techno-cycle meets the bio-cycle by adopting biomimetic, bionic, and/or nature-based solutions or using resources coming from/ending in renewable loops. This circular strategy could be focused on selecting lower-impact materials but also on the end of life for the bio-cycle (EMF, n.d.).


Strategies dedicated to ecodesign are well known. Some circular design strategies can fit on those based on ecodesign. However, others seem contrary to environmental aspects and ecodesign. Improving the durability of a product could involve, for instance, making it thicker. On the other hand, ecodesign would suggest making it thinner to use fewer materials. In that sense, the aim of the design should be defined clearly to ensure that the assessment of the improvements will be aligned.

Environmental assessment tools are also widely utilised for ecodesign. Product circularity evaluation is still not fully defined. Some proposals are ongoing; for example, ISO-level standards are being developed. Meanwhile, partial or business-based approaches exist for measuring the circularity of products but not for the product itself.


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EMF (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) (2020). Circulytics — measuring circularity. Cowes: Ellen Macarthur Foundation.

EMF (Ellen MacArthur Foundation) (n.d.). Circular economy system diagram. Available at:

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ISO (2020). 14006. Environmental management systems: guidelines for incorporating ecodesign. Geneva, Switzerland: International Organization for Standardization.

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