Towards a Digital Circular Economy

Digital Circular Economy – what is that?

Take – make – use – dispose. This is the still prevailing linear economy system. Products which are thrown away, buried in landfills, or burnt at the end of their primary use phase can not only contain valuable materials consisting of finite natural resources, but also hazardous materials harmful to humans or the environment.

We at iPoint strongly believe that the solution to many of these problems lies in the combination of the Circular Economy, which allows companies and society to manufacture, use, and re-use truly sustainable products, with digital data – an approach we at iPoint have come to call the "Digital Circular Economy".

 

Learn more about this approach in our video series:

Part 1: From Linear To Circular

The rapid development of mankind is leaving its mark: increasingly scarce resources, environmental pollution, and social exploitation are global problems that affect each and every one of us. The causes are to be found in the prevailing linear economic system: For instance, valuable materials are often thrown away, buried or burned after use — and poisoning the environment as a result.

 

How can we overcome these obstacles of our prevailing linear economic and industrial system?

 

Watch Part 1 of our little video series on our concept of a Digital Circular Economy and see how only a circular system will lead to a truly sustainable future.

 

Advantages of the Circular Economy

 

The solution to many of these problems lies in the "Circular Economy". Only this form of a closed-loop economic system offers companies and society the chance to manufacture, use and re-use genuinely sustainable products.

In an ideal world, such a system allows all components and materials that make up a product to be introduced into the life cycles of other products after the product’s actual use.

 

In order to move from a linear to a circular economic system, there's one key thing everyone involved must have: information about the composition of the products — in the form of digital data.

 

Why?

 

Watch Part 2 and find out.

 

Part 2: Collecting Data For Circularity

In order to move from a linear to a circular economic system, there's one key thing everyone involved must have: information about the composition of the products — in the form of digital data.

 

Why? Let's take a closer look at a product!

 

Watch Part 2 of our video series on our concept of a Digital Circular Economy and see why data is essential for a circular system.

 

Data for a Sustainable Product


In order to develop a sustainable product, we need data that tells us …

 

  • … what raw materials and components, with what properties, are needed

  • … where the components come from

  • … how they are sourced

  • ... how they are manufactured or processed

  • … what kind of waste is produced during manufacturing or processing

  • … how the products are packaged

  • … how they are shipped, and so on

 

For almost every product and many processes, legal requirements already exist ... and on top of this, there are voluntary sustainability standards, demands made by markets, customers, and consumers and the like, which should be taken into account and integrated into the overall approach.

 

All of this data must be collected and made available along the entire supply chain and throughout every single phase of a product's life cycle — while ensuring the data's quality, traceability, and the intellectual property.

 

Stay tuned for the third part of this video series to learn how information in the form of digital data can help you make your products and processes ready for a Circular Economy.

Part 3: Using Data & The Digital Twin

This is the third and last part of our video series on the concept of a Digital Circular Economy.

 

Watch and learn how information in the form of digital data can help you make your products and processes ready for a Circular Economy.


Using Data in the Design Phase

 

Collecting information and making it available along the entire supply chain and throughout every step of the product life cycle is an enormous task that can only be mastered by digital means.

 

The effort involved is worth it, because with this data, it is possible to virtually simulate all phases of the product life cycle during the design phase and thus create a digital twin of the product.

 

Using this digital twin in the design phase, a company can determine what raw and processed materials are best suited—

  • for the product

  • for production

  • for the use phase

  • and for recycling, so that they can be incorporated and reintroduced into a new life cycle further down the line.


Based on this knowledge, purchasing can decide where these materials are to be procured from, that is, —

  • from natural sources or

  • recycling,

  • from which regions and

  • from which suppliers.

And based on the digital data collected, a company can also ...

  • ... identify risks to the environment, people, and the company, and assess, minimize or even avoid them from the outset,

  • ... identify critical materials, processes, technologies and suppliers and find alternatives,

  • ... include existing legal requirements, customer wishes, and consumer demands into their plans,

  • ... identify potential savings in material and energy efficiency,

  • ... introduce further sustainability indicators and use them to secure their competitiveness,

  • ... inform institutions, clients and consumers about the origin and sustainability of their products and processes,


...and by doing so, put in place a sustainable and efficient lifecycle management system.

Summary: Life Cycle Management for Sustainable Products

In order to move from a linear to a circular economic system, all actors need one thing in particular: information in the form of digital data – concerning materials and resources used, sourcing and working conditions, production and recycling processes, etc.

 

All of this data must be collected and made available along the entire supply chain and in every single phase of a product’s life cycle – while ensuring the quality, traceability, and the intellectual property of the data. This is an enormous task that can only be mastered by digital means.

 

The effort involved is worth it: With this data, it is possible to virtually simulate all phases of the product life cycle as early as in the design phase and thus create a digital twin of the product. With detailed data on the substances, articles, and mixtures contained in products, combined with the consideration of their entire life cycle, companies are able to adequately assess risks, predict impacts, and prepare for future recycling and reuse.

 

Achieving this kind of System Life Cycle Management is an essential part of what we at iPoint call “Digital Circular Economy”.

With our software solutions and services we’re here to support you on each step of the way.

Selected by the European Commission
Join the European Circular Economy Ecosystem

Do you want to join the European Circular Economy ecosystem? And does your organisation need a circular boost?

 

iPoint are selected by the European Commission to join The Scale-Up Circular Business project #scalingcircularbusiness. This means that we are one of the SMEs to help other organisations in becoming more circular.

 

Interested in getting to know more about how we can boost your organisation's circularity?

 

Take a look at our project website!