Designing the Circular Economy

August 30, 2017

In the circular economy, waste is minimized through reuse, reducing resource consumption by regeneratively cycling economic, natural, and social capital. By reducing this connection between production and consumption, a more sustainable balance can be reached in light of increasing populations and socioeconomic development. However, the need for actionable strategies by which to create and support such a system is growing in criticality. Of course, identifying strategies that can be used to build a more circular economy depends on understanding how its basic constituent elements—materials, products, processes,systems—interact and impact one another. For Dr. Elsa Olivetti, Associate Professor in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it all comes down to how material choices and associated chemical mechanisms inform product characteristics and, in turn, system design; and how those systems reciprocally inform material design. These interactions, she suggests, are the basic building blocks that can either inhibit or unlock our ability to create a more circular industrial economy.

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