Open Source Circular Economy

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= "We need an open source approach to the circular economy! Our ecological problems are shared by all of us – any solutions need to be shared too". [1]


Contextual Citation

Sam Muirhead:

"As a basic understanding of what we’re doing, as I see it, Open Source Circular Economy Days is the start of a movement to promote the idea of open source as the best - and perhaps only - methodology that we know of which can build a real circular economy. For me, the goal is that when people think of circular economy or want to build a circular economy, the obvious choice or the obvious approach to explore would be the idea of open source. We believe that at the moment, the companies and organizations that are promoting circular economy are not as effective as they could be because they tend to be focusing on their own in-house solutions. We think that they could be a lot more effective with more cross-industry collaboration, more transparency and more open standards, much more of the open source methodology." (


Lars Zimmermann and Sam Muirhead:

"We share the vision of a circular economy. An idea for a truly sustainable future that works without waste, in symbiosis with our environment and resources. A future where every product is designed for multiple cycles of use, and different material or manufacturing cycles are carefully aligned, so that the output of one process always feeds the input of another. Rather than seeing emissions, manufacturing byproducts, or damaged and unwanted goods as ‘waste’, in the circular economy they become raw material, nutrients for a new production cycle.

Right now we have a linear system – we take resources out of the ground, and transform them into (often hazardous) waste. We consume and destroy our own planet faster than it can possibly recover. We’ve known about these problems for decades and despite increasing public awareness we are still nowhere near comprehensive solutions. Current ‘green’ approaches merely act as an ineffective brake on this destructive trajectory. A more radical shift is needed – in how we collaborate, and how we design, produce and distribute our products and the services around them.

One way to illustrate the circular economy is to think of cycles in the natural world. A simple representation might be a seed, which grows in nutritious topsoil, becoming a strong adult tree – its body will eventually decompose to become part of the nutrient source for more trees to grow. But this paints too tidy a picture – living organisms have developed a vibrant, diverse ecosystem over billions of years, and it doesn’t work in tidy closed loops. There are thousands of processes occurring in this simple picture – life cycles of bacteria, insects, and fungi, weather patterns, fruiting and pollination, competition with other organisms – the tree is constantly interacting with these systems and processes, all with their own inputs and outputs, and it’s the combination of all of them which produces a sustainable ecosystem.

Similarly, when we think about design and manufacturing, it’s extremely unlikely that individual companies can construct perfect processes in complete isolation, where the components of just two or three elegantly designed products feed each other’s production cycles in a balanced, neatly closed loop. This is an immensely difficult, illogical way of designing a circular economy.

We need to look further afield, for outsider perspectives. We need collaboration and open standards across countries and industries. We need transparency in manufacturing processes and material production. We need products that can be understood, taken apart and repaired. We need to share knowledge of how resources flow throughout our system. And when good solutions are developed, we need to be able to use them, to build upon them, and to improve them, for the benefit of our planet and our society." (

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