Questioning just and equitable resource access in circular economies (hosted by Isaac Ortega Alvarado)

This session took place on April 16, 2021.

Session Recording

The circular economy (CE) is a buzzword, presented as a set of approaches to minimize the negative impacts of resource exploitation —in extraction and waste. However, little is said about the distribution and access of resources in a CE, or better said economical aspect of it. Stahel (2019) proposes a circular industrial economy based on services for abundance, where scarcity is eliminated by maintaining stocks of material resources in a high value (products) or in low value forms (molecules) within the economy (exchange system). The role of maintaining the value is given to firms that own the stocks and provide access to users through fee-based schemes (commercial services). The Ellen MacArthur foundation, as a forerunner of a certain CE, has supported their claims on the opportunities for profit maximization through value capture in services. Several authors have already criticized these claims as they could lead to inequalities in access.
CE has easily entered the discourse in design, as a technical and apolitical approach to materials, where it is rarely questioned.
In this session, I want to discuss with others about CE as more than profit maximization opportunities (or value capture), on its implications for equitable and just resource access and distribution, particularly the implications for designers.
Drop in and bring your position about CE.

Some generative questions:
1. What does a CE imply for equitable and just access to resources?
2. What are the social benefits of a CE? Who gets them?
3. What role would design, and designers play in different CEs?
4. What is to be negotiated and what should be put forward by designers?
Stahel, W. R. (2019). The circular economy: A user’s guide. Routledge.