Unlike Conventional 3R, Circulating Resources and Economic Growth are Linked
The notion of a recycling-oriented society debuted in the 1990s and the 3R initiative (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) got started in Japan. Since then, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (HQ in UK) was established in 2010 to promote the circular economy. In 2015 the EU (European Union) announced a policy package that showed the direction to a circular economy. This resulted in a quantum leap in the attention paid to the circular economy around the world. The biggest difference from a 3R society is that we aim to create an economic system that links the strengthening of industrial competitiveness while ensuring employment under the premise of recycling resources.
In the manufacturing industry, the main idea was “selling out of products,” or making, using and disposing of mass quantities of things. However, our sense of this changed upon close observation of how people value “ownership.” Conventionally, the idea is that products realize their greatest value at the point they are purchased. By contrast, the effort to produce value throughout, not just at the point of purchase, but including during and even after use, that is the concept at the core of life cycle engineering that I study, and is key to a circular economy. In other words, it means designing products with a long life in mind, being aware from the outset of maintenance, updates, and reusing the product after its use. Unfortunately, however, the fact is the concept has not yet fully penetrated the manufacturing industry.
Of course, the maker may tend to think that the design cost to ensure full recycling of a product may be a waste if it is not recycled. That said, today using IoT allows us to check data on how much a product was actually used and even whether it could be recycled. Using this kind of digital technology will make it possible to design a more rational product life cycle.