Posted by on 01/08/2018

The following is the preface to a chapter written by Frank for the book “Designing for the Circular Economy”. The book was edited by Professor Martin Charter, director of the Centre for Sustainable Design (CfSD), UK and published in August 2018 by the Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.


circular thinking in design – reflections over 25 years’ experience

by: frank o’connor


While the author did not realise it at the time, he first experienced the Circular Economy (CE) in the early 1980s. Working in his dad’s small construction company in Ireland, waste made no sense as everything had value and a potential use. The company would dismantle sections of buildings to recover bricks, wood, fasteners, slate, iron and whatever was deemed reusable. Scrap metal was sent for recycling, unusable wood was chopped for firewood, while other materials were down-cycled to aggregate. Little did the author know that 35 years later (he would be participating in an invite-only stakeholder workshop in Amsterdam, surrounded by CE professionals, enthused about the prospect of and perceived novelty of ‘urban mining’, construction disassembly and repurposing. So is the CE new, the radical step forward that so many are suggesting or is it just the emperor in new clothes? This chapter explores these questions through an industry eco-design case study of the electronics sector from 25 years ago of which the author was a member of the in-house design team.



Acknowledgement: The image is a screenshot from a video of graffiti in Amsterdam.


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