Engineering the Circular Economy
Sandy Rodger CEng, engineer and business leader, explores what the Circular Economy means for engineering.
Business fads come and go. A new term is invented, consultants make money for a while, and then along comes the next one. I predict the current intensive coverage of the Circular Economy will also be temporary, but for a different reason. In time it will just be “the economy.” You don’t have to be an engineer (although it helps) to realise that more, wealthier, more interconnected, people will need stuff at a rate that is simply impossible if we use everything just once and throw it away. Whatever the exact details or definitions, some kind of circular model will prevail. Our successors will look back on the period 1750-2050 as an aberration, when humanity achieved massive progress based on one-time use of resources, before getting things back in balance, in a new form that supports a large modern industrial society. This (I admit) is the optimist’s view of the anthropocene.
So this article takes the Circular Economy for granted – that it will happen, in some form. If you want more on this, look here.
The question here is what it means for engineering? There are a myriad specific answers – new technologies, many of them not yet imagined. But let me focus on three themes: