Design as a catalyst for the circular economy

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Design for circularity requires new methodologies that differ from the traditional design approach. This chapter pivots around a discussion of how the guiding design principles that are general to the practice of green engineering, eco-design, and cradle-to-cradle fuel the transition to a circular economy. This chapter describes the case of solar cell panels as a typical and challenging example of transitioning into a circular economy. It highlights issues from the design perspective, which aim to enable reuse and recycle materials at the end of a product's use. The case discussion introduces suggestions on how design seeks to solve these issues. The case highlights the need for a change in mindset in designing products for full circularity and links this need to education, with a focus on the inner transition, where universities play a vital role. Preparing our engineering students in product development for a future in which we aim to design for a circular economy is the motivation behind creation of a new design course that aims to teach how design can be a catalyst for full circularity. For those who are interested in bringing circular economy design to education, we share how we did this and what we learned.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Catalysts for a Sustainable Circular Economy
EditorsHanna Lehtimäki, Leena Aarikka-Stenroos, Ari Jokinen, Pekka Jokinen
Number of pages19
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication date2024
Commissioning bodyRoutledge
ISBN (Print)9781032212449
ISBN (Electronic)9781003267492
Publication statusPublished - 2024


  • Innovation by Design
  • Circular economy (CE)
  • design anthroplogy, methodology, ethnographic practice
  • design methods


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