Circular Manufacturing

Circular Manufacturing

Let’s Trash Talk.

Most plastic is not getting recycled. A lot more than straws are ending up in our oceans and rivers; there are many other ways that plastic is polluting nature and ending up in our food and bodies. Even though some plastic products can be recycled, they still often end up in landfills or in the ocean. And many plastic products can’t be recycled at all.

How does this happen?

It all stems from how products are designed. And whether or not the producer of the product maintains any responsibility for what happens to the product at the end of its life.

We aren’t just talking plasticcell phones, washing machines and mattresses all have to go somewhere when you are done with them. We have spent the last 50 years designing products that ultimately end up in landfills. The landfills are filling up. We also ship trash overseas to let someone else deal with it.

We need to design for the end of the product’s life. This concept goes by many names, including The Circular Economy, Extended Producer Responsibility or Built to Repair.

What if washing machines were designed to be repaired instead of being disposed of? Or, similarly, were made modular so that portions could be removed and upgraded?

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is one of several groups bringing together leaders in government and business to see how we can accelerate Circular Design. One case study is on carpeting in the San Francisco area, which included setting high environmental standards for carpet design and making those standards easy to access.

Interface, a carpet company, has been recycling some of its carpeting for over 20 years (Note: I have not been able to find what percentage of their total sales is recycled). When the customer is putting in new carpeting, the old carpeting is pulled and recycled back into carpeting again.


  • The World of Business podcast episode with Ellen MacArthur


  • Cradle to Cradle
  • The 5 Gyres Institute
  • Ellen MacArthur Foundation