The butterfly diagram: visualising the circular economy
The 'butterfly diagram' shows the continuous flow of materials in a circular economy.
Recycling begins at the end - the ‘get rid’ stage of a product’s lifecycle. The , however, goes right back to the beginning to prevent waste and pollution from being created in the first place. In the face of our current environmental challenges, recycling won’t be enough to overcome the sheer amount of waste we produce.
“In a properly built circular economy, one should rather focus on avoiding the recycling stage at all costs. It may sound straightforward, but preventing waste from being created in the first place is the only realistic strategy.”
- World Economic Forum
Recycling is what you might call ‘end-of-pipe’, while a circular economy’s ‘upstream’ solutions address potential problems right at the source.
While recycling is undoubtedly a necessary component, we need to ensure that products and materials are designed, from the outset, to be reused, repaired, and remanufactured. It’s the consequences of decisions made at the design stage that determine around 80% of environmental impacts.
Companies are already exploring ways to ‘design out’ waste when products are still at the concept stage.