Special Issue "Designing Products and Services for Circular Consumption"
A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2019) | Viewed by 17028
To support a transition to a circular economy, a growing number of designers and researchers are exploring different ways to circulate materials and products. The prevalent focus in the literature regarding design opportunities for circularity is framed from a production and business model point of view. The current framing results in a narrative that emphasises how companies can contribute to the circular economy by either providing products that last a long time and/or are fit for circular (re-) production flows, or by offering services based on new business models. Although innovations in production and business are essential for reducing resource throughput and for bringing about a transition to a circular economy, changes in consumption are equally important. Hence, there is a need to think beyond the current narrative of exploring opportunities for circularity solely from a production and business model point of view, and to also address opportunities from a user and consumption point of view.
In the linear consumption paradigm, people are often viewed as consumers who choose what to consume rather than how to consume. However, as a shift to a circular economy entails changes in how people consume, that is, changes in their consumption processes, it is central to expand our understanding of such processes. People decide when and how to obtain, use, not use, and rid themselves of products. Their decisions will determine whether products are consumed through circular consumption processes (such as renting, borrowing and buying second hand), whether they are extensively utilised, and whether they are passed on to a new user once the need for them has ceased. While people have many options to shift to circular consumption processes, these options are often considered impractical and challenging, as they require more time, effort and planning than today’s linear consumption processes. For instance, selling a product on the second-hand market requires more work and is more cumbersome than disposing of it as trash or storing it away. If linear instead of circular consumption processes are preferred by people, products will not be circulated and the transition to a circular economy will not gain momentum.
Insights regarding circular consumption processes can unveil new opportunities to design products and services for circular consumption. Services can, for example, be designed to take care of undesired activities that have been identified to hinder people from circulating products to others, such as transporting, sorting and cleaning products. Similarly, products can be designed to make circular consumption processes more practical by, for example, making it easier for people to inspect, clean, dismantle and reinstall them. Opportunities of this kind can complement commonly discussed design strategies that address, for example, durability, remanufacturing and recycling. Although such strategies are relevant for a transition to a circular economy, they are not the focus of this Special Issue.
In this Special Issue, people’s consumption processes and their implications for design take centre stage. We welcome contributions that address questions such as the following:
- What practicalities are associated with circular consumption, and how do these affect everyday life?
- What are the differences between linear and circular consumption (from a user perspective), and what opportunities and challenges do these differences entail for design?
- How can design enable people to shift from linear to circular consumption?
- What perspectives, competences, processes, methods and/or tools do designers need in order to design products and services fit for circular consumption?
Dr. Oskar Rexfelt
Dr. Anneli Selvefors
Manuscript Submission Information
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- circular economy
- circular consumption
- product and service design
- user perspective