We currently use far more resources than our planet is able to provide. One solution to this problem is to make better use of existing materials. To this end, an entirely new metric has now been tested that may, for example, assist decision-makers in making sustainable choices; a new metric for circularity that defines the percentage of a product that consists of recycled materials. The products are scored from 0 to 100% depending on the share of circulated material they consist of. Pictured is a renovated Lamino chair from Swedese with a score of C=91%.
Today’s consumers can, for example, easily choose organic or fair-trade products when shopping; however, shaping an environmentally sustainable society requires more than simply ensuring that new products are sustainably produced – we must also begin to make better use of existing materials. We must allow products to circulate in what is known as a circular economy.
A material can become something new
If we can think beyond their primary use of a product and efficiently reuse materials. we will be able to reduce the negative environmental impact of production and build a more circular economy.
“The risk with new ideas and movements such as the circular economy, is that there will be a great deal of talk and very little action. One way to reduce this risk is to create clarity and measurability,” says RISE senior researcher Marcus Linder, who manages the project Measuring Product Circularity in which the new metric C has been tested. This metric is a quantitative measurement that describes the proportion of a product that consists of circulated materials, i.e. material that has been used previously.
“However, it also weights the value of the reused material in the product, meaning that reused copper gives a considerably higher circulation value than, for example, the same amount of reused wood chips,” explains Marcus Linder.
From concept to realisation
The metric has now gone from concept to realisation, and been tested on real products. The ability to show customers just how much of a product consists of recycled materials, and even to be able to calculate the value of that material, will be of great importance in a future when the ability to demonstrate that a company’s product contains recycled materials can be expected to become increasingly relevant.
“I hope that this metric can be used in areas such as public procurement. Major stakeholders such as municipalities and county councils will then be able to place greater demands on the products they buy being manufactured using a given percentage of recycled materials,” says Marcus Linder.
The C metric works well for measuring the value of recycled materials in a product in new and remanufacture, refurbishments and recycling of components. That said, certain parameters such as a products lifecycle and the emissions it causes are not accounted for. This makes it difficult to apply to areas such as the secondhand market and sharing economy; however, the metric will continue to develop.
“We are also testing a supplement to the metric that weights a product’s economic lifecycle,” says Marcus Linder.
The project is part of the strategic innovation programme Re:source, and financed by Energimyndigheten, Formas and Vinnova.