How Circular Materials are Changing the Destiny of Products

Updated: Feb 23

Look around. Almost everything you see is trash, someday.


Most of the products around you are designed for single use. Once they’re deteriorated, broken, or out of fashion, they’re thrown away.


“Away” often means “into a landfill.” And as these products can’t be broken down and returned to natural processes, we get giant piles of trash.


This wouldn’t be so harmful if these piles of trash were like piles of leaves, destined to regenerate the ecosystem. Unfortunately, our piles look more like this:

2018 EPA Fact Sheet


To put our piles into another perspective, at one pound of trash per square foot, we could cover Vermont in garbage each year. All that trash, year over year, is burying us.


Products designed for the circular economy can help dig us out.


A Circular Destiny

Unlike the fated destiny of products in a linear economy, the destiny of products in a circular economy can be written over and over again.


As seen in Circular Economy 101, a circular economy must adhere to three basic principles:

  • Design waste out of products and materials.

  • Keep products and materials in use.

  • Regenerate natural systems.

By following these principles, products in a circular economy never see a landfill. They’re reused many times over, and when no longer needed, they’re broken down into basic materials and recycled. Any leftovers from these processes regenerate the natural environment.


Products in a circular economy do not add to our growing landfills. In fact, in the best scenarios, these products reduce landfills.


ECOR

ECOR creates high-density fiberboard panels in various thicknesses to suit all types of designs. The panels are made from water, heat, pressure, and waste material (cellulose fibers) that would ordinarily be burned or landfilled.


ECOR panels are 100% bio-based, 100% composed of recycled waste materials, 100% VOC-free, and 100% recyclable. They offer an environmentally safe alternative to cardboard, particle board, plywood, plastic substrates, and foam.


ECOR and the Circular Economy

ECOR panels are a great example of a circular economy product. As listed above:

  • Design waste out of products and materials - ECOR panels are 100% recyclable.

  • Keep products and materials in use - ECOR panels are composed of 100% recycled material.

  • Regenerate natural systems - ECOR panels are compostable and serve as a soil enhancer.



More than a product, ECOR enables the circular economy. As stated in the ECOR Information Package 2020, “Our mission is to be one of the leaders in the circular economy through the deployment of innovative solutions in partnership with global manufacturers, smart cities and government agencies.”


Eric Logtens, Director of Circular Economy for ECOR and a cradle-to-cradle pioneer agrees,

“ECOR is built around a circular product, and is growing based on circular principles.”


ECOR Success

ECOR has already completed a wide variety of successful projects. Perhaps one of its most famous is The Tiger Street Lab in the Jewel Building at Singapore’s Changi Airport.

In collaboration with Tiger Beer (Heineken Asia Pacific), award-winning architect Moshe Safdie, Elmwood, and OP3 Creative; ECOR co-created a premium product and brand experience at the world’s first Tiger’s Den.


ECOR’s used its technical expertise to transform Tiger Beer’s spent brewer’s grains into panels for the bar and furniture. The bar looks so much like premium wood no one can guess it’s made out of waste materials!


Spent brewer’s grains often end up in landfills, but ECOR turned them into something both functional and beautiful in one of the world’s biggest and best airports.

This is what the circular economy is all about, and ECOR wants to do it everywhere.


Circular Economy Material Centers

In addition to panels and decorative surfaces, ECOR offers custom solutions. If you have residual waste fibers, ECOR can help turn them into tailor-made, functional products - like they did with Tiger Beer.


But ECOR wants to do more than offer circular economy products. They want to be part of a materials ecosystem through “Circular Economy Materials Excellence Centers (CEMEC).” Eric Logtens sees Circular Economy Material Excellence Centers as “essential pieces of the puzzle towards adopting a circular economy” and the “physical places to start the global movement.”


The idea is to gather expertise, materials, and technology in facilities dedicated to the circular economy where people can learn, work, and share. These facilities would serve a variety of functions:

  • Processing plants to keep materials in use

  • Markets where people can access materials

  • Knowledge centers where people can learn and experiment with materials

“Think of circular material centers as equal parts innovation lab, maker space, materials processing facility, community center, and market”

said Sann Carrière, an ECOR circular economy business developer.


ECOR is providing technology to develop circular economy material centers in The Netherlands and Singapore, and they’re actively seeking like-minded partners to help establish more.


Networked together, perhaps globally, these materials centers would serve as lifeblood for the circular economy, connecting people to materials and know-how, thereby minimizing waste the world over.


“Awareness has been raised. It’s time to stop talking and join us in doing,” Eric Logtens.


Conclusion

The principles of the circular economy are inspiring people to create products whose destiny does not lie in a landfill. ECOR is a prime example, and if more circular organizations likewise succeed and grow, much more than the destiny of products may change.


Imagine a world with material centers instead of landfills.

For more information about ECOR or Circular Material Centers, visit or contact:


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