Circular Solutions to Escape the Vicious Cycle of the Linear Economy
Time flew by and eventually, after a stressful and strenuous Friday evening (or rather night) of tweaking, rehearsing and finalizing projects, presentations and summaries, the Saturday morning sun found its way through the blinds of the hotel room and was quick to wake up our bottle as well as its companion just in time for one last breakfast here at the centre. As ten o’clock came by, the colourful flask found itself, once more, standing by the leg of a chair in the main auditorium right as enthusiastic applause marked the kick-off of the forum’s final event and the ten inspiring presentations that would follow.
Not only the ISTF-bottle, but truly everyone, including the guests, was blown away by the teams’ solutions to the diverse challenges the implementation of circular economic models poses. One group, for example, pitched an alteration to the existing patent system which would promote more circular inventions by categorizing new proposals into regular, green, and circular ideas. Green patents, those which are generally more resourceful and less environmentally damaging than the standard regular patent, would predominantly profit from monetary incentives, whereas circular inventions would benefit from less stringent laws regarding derivational patents, hence facilitating the process for solutions that provide improvements to already existing products. With this solution, the group hoped to make regular patents less attractive and thus allowing the more desirable, meaning sustainable, ideas to take the stage.
Another group thought of combating the abundance of plastic waste resulting from the shoe industry with soles based on mycelium, while the second team of the same challenge was ready to launch a shoe brand that was inspired by Legos. But do not fear, the latter group’s intention was nowhere close to letting their customers continuously step on the colourful yet menacing little bricks! What they envisioned was a shoe that would consist of five basic components – three parts to make up the sole and bottom layers, one top part, and the laces – all easy to assemble and disassemble again. Those components would come in different shapes and materials and would all be compatible with each other so that the owners of such a pair could not only customize their shoes according to their own style but also wouldn’t need to buy three different sets of footwear should their hobbies be as diverse as hiking, outdoor running, and indoor tennis. All they’d need to do was switch out the pivotal parts to better fit the conditions and demands. Additionally, in case a customer couldn’t or wouldn’t want to proceed using some of the components, these could be returned to the manufacturer where they would be recycled to produce new shoe elements again, making it a much more circular business model than what the shoe industry currently has to offer. Overall, both promising solutions that filled their challengers with pride and the ISTF bottle with hope for the future of the owners of the many pairs of shoes it was able to see through the lines of chairs from its place in the auditorium.