Why is a circular economy for capital equipment important?
Capital equipment is the buildings, machines, and infrastructure we use to keep our societies running. It includes everything from computer servers to medical scanners, power plants to cars, trains, and ships. They are generally expensive to produce, and they are products that are designed, built and acquired to last, often staying in use for several decades.
A circular economy for capital equipment is important because its production uses 7.2 million tons of raw materials every year, including large amounts of high value metal and mineral resources. Because of the higher value at stake, the capital equipment sector is leading the way in many aspects of the transition to a circular economy. For example, their customers, mostly in a business-to-business setting, are more used to service-based business models which can lead to higher circularity. This means capital equipment can offer important lessons to other industries.
What could circularity for capital equipment look like?
In a circular economy for capital equipment
Products and their components use fewer resources and are recycled back into use at end-of-lifeProducts are designed with reuse in mind, using fewer resources in production—especially non-renewable resources—and more refurbished or reused components and recycled materials, as well as materials that can be economically recycled, reducing demand for natural resources and pollution.
Products and their components are used for longer, through the use of digital technology and innovative new ‘as-a-service’ modelsDigitally-enabled maintenance, shared access, and services that see beyond one-off sales to focus on functionality instead of material goods offer innovative ways to keep products in use for longer, reducing waste.
End-of-use equipment and components are returned for reuse through high-quality systemsInstead of being sent to landfill or uncontrolled incineration, products no longer suitable for use are refurbished, remanufactured, repurposed or used for parts harvesting—extending the lifetime of other products that are still in use.
How to transition to a circular economy for capital equipment
Companies, governments and civil society organizations all have a role to play in creating a circular economy for the capital equipment industry. These 10- calls-to-action can help us accelerate the transition, and make it as impactful as possible.