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The War on Waste

Embracing the circular economy in our homes and offices.

Embracing the circular economy in our homes and offices

In the near future, all the products, gadgets and appliances we use every day will need to conform to the principles of the circular economy. To confront this bewildering challenge faced by all manufacturers and consumers, we commissioned global innovation intelligence platform Springwise to produce a research paper, The Future of the Sustainable Home and Office, which includes the latest inspirational products and services that are already embracing circularity.

The circular economy is a way of building a world with no waste. In a circular economy, once you have finished with a product, it goes back into the supply chain, instead of into landfill.  While most buildings and products are produced on a linear timeline of ‘take, make, use, dispose’, the circular economy calls for a more cyclical approach.

Our homes and offices are prime targets for circularity because they create so much waste. Recycling alone is not enough if the recycled materials can’t be recycled again. We need to rethink the entire lifecycle of a product or building and develop ways to repurpose items already in circulation.

Eco-friendly materials

A house or an office building that uses low amounts of energy isn’t truly sustainable if it is constructed with materials that have a high carbon footprint and cannot be reused, but the most enlightened innovators have realized that one man’s trash is another man’s eco-friendly material.

One Australian property group, for example, has transformed clothing, plastic packaging, and discarded glass into ‘green ceramics’ which are used for everything from floor tiles and kitchen splashbacks, to the dining tables, light features, and artwork. Another US company turns reclaimed sawdust and plastic bags into decking that looks like wood, and an entrepreneurial Portuguese designer has upcycled waste cork into a limited-edition furniture collection. 3D-printing technology has allowed one Milan-based startup to transform Sicilian orange peels into desk lamps that can be composted or turned into biofuel when no longer needed.

Concrete has long been recognized as a building material with a truly shocking carbon footprint, but new eco alternatives have come to market that are made from hemp, weeds and even crayfish shells.

The scourges of single-use plastic could soon be a thing of the past as biodegradable packaging made from seaweed is being developed.

Upcycling, reuse and repair

Furniture waste is a growing problem in our homes and offices as these items can’t easily be thrown out or recycled – they often get dumped illegally, with up to 80 percent of old furniture ending up in a landfill. The COVID-19 pandemic and relentless lockdowns have also triggered a surge in demand for new home office equipment to support working from home.

One British company specializes in remanufactured office furniture to as-new condition, typically selling it for less than half the cost of new with no loss of quality, and creating twice as many jobs as assembling new furniture from virgin materials.

Another UK-based fintech has taken upcycling to a whole new level with a free banking app that allows users to trade in their unwanted possessions for cash without the uncertainty, waiting, and irritation often associated with auction websites. It even offers customers an add-on service to offset the carbon footprint of their entire lifestyle.

Discussing the circular economy in design and architecture

Watch our panel discussion on this topic which was broadcasted online as part of Stockholm Design & Architecture Talks 2022. The talk was moderated by Swedish TV presenter Li Pamp and the panelists were David Schill, Marketing Director of Aritco Lift; Håkan Nordin, Head of Sustainability at Swedish vinyl flooring company BOLON; and Thomas Sandell, one of the most prominent architects in Sweden today.



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