Circular economy policy at a crossroads: encouraging durable products or enabling faster cycling of short‐lived products?

Whalen, Katherine; Milios, Leonidas

FG Transdisziplinäre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung in der Elektronik

Non-ownership models, where firms rather than consumers remain product owners, are advocated as a way for firms to prolong product lifetimes and contribute to a more Circular Economy. However, it has been suggested that such models could actually encourage ‘faster cycling’, meaning earlier product replacement and shorter product lifetimes. Within recent policy discussions, product durability to prolong product lifetimes has become a key focal point. This paper focuses on how policy can encourage product durability and prolonged life for products distributed through non-ownership models. The paper explores the relationship between policy related to product lifetimes and nonownership models through a review of existing and proposed policy for two product categories: mobile phones and office furniture. The results suggest there is a gap in policy regarding non-ownership models. While existing policies may address some concerns of faster cycling, additional policy propositions from the European Commission should be considered. In particular, while relevant policies related to either studied product group are identified, the policies with most potential come from outside the existing legislative framework on eco-design and resource efficiency measures. Thus, the findings are not only useful for academics and policymakers in the field of Circular Economy and circular business models, but also to practitioners working in firms where these policy frameworks are relevant.