Measuring Product Circularity: Key Attributes and Metrics

Abstract: The evolving concept of circular economy (CE) is proposed as a strategy to address the limitations of the linear economy that is based on the ‘take-make-dispose’ practices. Thus, it is vital that products are designed based on the CE concept. However, the description and attributes of the CE remain ambiguous. There are also no clear explanations of what makes a product circular and how to measure its circularity. Therefore, a clear understanding of the CE and core constituent attributes of a circular product is imperative to evaluate its performance. This presentation demonstrates preliminary work to address the above gap to develop a metrics-based approach for product circularity evaluation. This effort begins by analyzing the definitions and key features of the CE as well as a circular product through an extensive literature review. The results indicate that the CE must consider technical and biological elements while accomplishing the closed-loop material flow. Findings from literature are synthesized to achieve a comprehensive list of circular product attributes, which includes extending the lifecycle, performing multiple lifecycles via value recovery strategies, and increasing material as well as resource efficiency. Further, metrics that evaluate the achieved circular product attributes are identified and demonstrated. Based on these outcomes, preliminary observations about the existing product circularity assessment tools are conducted. Shortcomings of existing evaluation tools are also identified and considered in further development of the product circularity evaluation methodology. The outcomes of this research will contribute to improving the circular product design process.

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