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Linear, Recycling and Circular Design

There are two main approaches when it comes to design: linear and circular. However, the recycling approach also sits somewhere between the two. Being able to clearly distinguish between these approaches is paramount when it comes to identifying planet positive brands, products and designs.

What are Linear, Circular and Recycling economies?

Linear Economy

The basic structure of a linear economy is to take, make, use and then waste. This process is then constantly repeated. Linear is the most common form of economy, especially within the design industry, and it thrives off consumerism and ware once culture. Linear economy is the cheapest way to produce cost effective clothing, however, to get large quantities of items at low cost, this type of production consists of vast amounts of toxic chemicals; water waste and pollution; genetic modification and monoculture crop and worker exploitation/child labour in developing countries. It is the reason why the industry is as wasteful and as environmentally damaging as it is.

Recycling Economy

The structure of the recycling economy is almost identical to that of the linear economy, with the basic structure being that of take, make, use then waste; however, between the process of use and waste there is the option to recycle and return to the make stage of the economy.

By creating this small loop of recycling and reuse, this economy diverts some industry waste and gives it another lifecycle. This helps to reduce the carbon footprint of products and prevent waste filling up landfill sites, negatively impacting the environment at the end of their user lifecycle. However, this process does not address the means of sourcing (take) or manufacture/distribution (make), which is usually the same process as that of the linear economy. This is because the recycling economy has only appeared to try to combat the waste and the environmental impact of the waste of the linear economy system.

Circular Economy

The circular economy structure is much more complex. It is a system of take, make, use, reuse or repair, to either continue use, to return or to recycle.

The aim of this economy is to produce no waste at all; it is the only system of design that doesn’t negatively impact the environment at the end of its lifecycle, that is because the materials are either constantly reused or will degrade down into organic matter.

Designers that follow the circular economy system consider their waste management and carbon footprint at every stage of the process, including the take stage.

Circular economy designers will opt for organic, sustainable or recycled materials, or materials that have already been a previous product to ensure that carbon footprints and environmental impacts are negligible within their production processes.

How as a consumer can you contribute to a circular economy?

It is important to recognise these types of economy, as a consumer, because it is important for you to be able to make educated and informed choices on your consumer behaviours.

To help you out, here are a few ways that you can turn your consumer habits to circular economy:

Minimalist shopping habits

It is important as a consumer to recognise your own wants and needs. It is very easy to get swept up in all of the marketing and advertising ploys that surround you every day and to become convinced you need a product to improve your quality of life.

If you are ever tempted by the sales rail, ask yourself these questions before:

How long have I been needing this item for?

Have you wanted or needed it for months/years, or just for a few minutes?

Has my life been impacted by not having this item?

Does not owning the item have a negative impact on your quality of life. For

example, do you not own a winter coat, and the temperature is 0 degrees

What type of company am I buying this from? Are there better companies out there?

Does this company focus on sustainable and ethical practices?

Are these items already made from any form of reused or recycled materials?

Could you buy this item second hand?

Supporting circular businesses

There are many innovative businesses emerging that focus on the circular approach to design. They recognise the importance and the imperative need for a zero-waste approach to consumerism and the industry. Supporting brands like these is imperative when it comes to buying into an industry of waste reduction. Not only this but it also supports small businesses that are trying to make a positive impact.

At Ethilution we are proud to be both zero-waste and a circular economy.

It is important that we are totally transparent with our community about how we use all materials within our designing process.

That is why we ensure to keep an open dialogue on our website and social media to ensure that our community knows exactly what type of brand we are and what materials and processes go into our products.

We strive to create a system of waste interception and prevention and reduce the carbon footprints of materials by giving them new purpose. All of these processes create the zero-waste circular economy design approaches of Ethilution.