Do you want to contribute to a more sustainable society? Tackle the challenges in the transition towards a circular economy? In this course you will analyse what it takes to create a circular economy including sustainable supply chains.
Circular economy challenge
The transition towards a circular economy is one of the biggest challenges in order to create a more sustainable society. This transition requires an interdisciplinary approach, combining socio-technical, managerial, and environmental considerations.
Valuable resources often end up as waste. We challenge you to find and analyse examples of this in your own environment. You could consider possible solutions to reduce or recycle waste, but you soon realise that waste is not the only problem. Precious materials such as copper, gold and phosphorus are gradually disappearing. Water is becoming scarce, pollution of water and air is massive and a lot of food is thrown away.
Right now we design products from cradle to grave: from production to consumption to waste, which is a linear model. But we should design products from cradle to cradle: in a closed loop whereby they don’t become waste, but valuable resources again. And when we start thinking in circles, we might as well try to reinvent not just supply chains, but entire systems.
Because that’s what we have been doing with sustainability: we have been departing from the status quo, while cradle to cradle and circular pushes us to think outside the box.
Conventional understanding of sustainability proposes activities defined in terms of decreasing and reducing, such as ‘zero footprint’, ‘zero waste’, reduction of pollution, reduction of energy consumption. The focus is on reducing negative impacts. We call this eco-efficiency, which is often seen as a goal in itself – we can keep doing what we do, just strive to do it less.
Cradle to Cradle celebrates abundance; it recognises that people, just like ants and trees, are abundant and have a large impact on their environment. The challenge is to make this impact a positive one and we invite you to join this challenge!
Systems approach to circular economy
In this course, we therefore take a systems approach to the circular economy, considering different stakeholder perspectives, their incentive structures, and their impacts on circular alternatives.
The circular solutions will be identified by technological assessment using applied as well as emerging technologies. Since identifying and evaluating potential circular alternatives based on quantitative techniques is key in achieving sustainable solutions, you will also learn how to use life cycle assessment and agent-based modelling to assess the socio-technical and manageable challenges and environmental benefits of alternative solutions.
By integrating all perspectives in a case study, you will learn how to comprehensively and critically assess strategies to transition towards a circular economy.
Jacqueline Bloemhof, Emiel Wubben and Jan Vreeburg