The three r’s that could solve the global resource crisis

The challenge
Global resource consumption has long been on the rise and is estimated to triple from now until 2050. While the consumption of goods has grown steadily in the industrial countries for decades, developing countries are seeing a rapid increase in household consumption and number of consumers. This is for instance seen each year at Earth Overshoot Day, the day when humanity effectively exhausts nature’s resource budget for the year, which occurs sooner every year. Not since 1970 have we managed to stay within the calendar year.

The future
The time has come for us to make do with the linear take-make-dispose model and begin to look at how we create a more circular future, where focus is on resource optimisation, closing the loop and reducing the amount of waste we produce. Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle are keywords in the circular transition and countries, companies and citizens alike must start rethinking consumption patterns and increase recycling rates on a global scale.

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Reducing the amount of waste we produce should be a key objective for designers across industries as there is great potential in rethinking the composition of goods to limit, or at the least postpone, the amount of components that become waste after the end of a product’s life cycle. Material composition, as well as the quality of materials used, are important elements in designing to limit waste. Moreover, by designing for disassembly, designers can significantly increase the reusability of products as it becomes easier to take them apart and reuse components, ultimately extending a product’s lifetime.

It is equally important that we start rethinking the way we consume as the current linear consumption model will exhaust our planet’s resources. Repairing and reusing goods is one way to limit our consumption of virgin resources. New circular business models could complement this as new ways of sharing goods are developing across the globe. Renting clothes, appliances and cars on a day-to-day basis is increasing the consumption of many items, while reducing the amount of goods that goes to waste as people become less inclined to and dependent on purchasing new products.

Finally, recycling rates must increase to limit the amount of resources that are wasted in landfills to slowly dissolve while polluting the surrounding environment. Increased recycling is dependent on the participation of many different stakeholders, as collecting, sorting and treatment takes place in many different settings. Businesses can do their part, by e.g. introducing strategies for maximising resource utilisation, which can be a source of competitive advantage and an economic gain. At the same time, policy makers must introduce the right conditions for businesses to do so as well as create the right conditions for citizens to do their part.

The potential to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle is immense, but we must act now.

Connect with us: Mie Johnson, Senior Project Manager, [email protected]

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