17 Dez

Open Source Circular Economy Days

first draft

OWi is part of the organisation of the Open Source Circular Economy Days 2015. For that Lars Zimmermann and Sam Muirhead wrote a Mission Statement about Open Souce Circular Economy which is very worth to share here:

Open Source Circuar Economy – Mission Statement

Written by Lars Zimmermann & Sam Muirhead

What do we mean when we talk about an Open Source Circular Economy?

We share the vision of a circular economy. An idea for a truly sustainable future that works without waste, in symbiosis with our environment and resources. A future where every product is designed for multiple cycles of use. Different material and manufacturing cycles are carefully aligned so that the output of one process feeds the input of another. Rather than seeing emissions, manufacturing by-products or damaged and unwanted goods as ‘waste’, in the circular economy they become raw material, nutrients for a new production cycle.

Right now we have a linear system – we take resources out of the ground, and transform them into (often hazardous) waste. We consume and destroy our own planet faster than it can possibly recover. We’ve known about these problems for decades and despite increasing public awareness we are still nowhere near comprehensive solutions. Current ‘green’ approaches merely act as an ineffective brake on this destructive trajectory. A more radical shift is needed – in how we collaborate, and how we design, produce and distribute our products and the services around them.

One way to illustrate the circular economy is to think of cycles in the natural world. A simple representation might be a seed, which grows in nutritious topsoil, becoming a strong adult tree – its body will eventually decompose to become part of the nutrient source for more trees to grow. But this paints too tidy a picture – living organisms have developed a vibrant, diverse ecosystem over billions of years, and it doesn’t work in tidy closed loops. There are thousands of processes occurring in this simple picture – life cycles of bacteria, insects, and fungi, weather patterns, fruiting and pollination, competition with other organisms – the tree is constantly interacting with these systems and processes, all with their own inputs and outputs, and it’s the combination of all of them which produces a sustainable ecosystem.

Similarly, when we think about design and manufacturing, it’s extremely unlikely that individual companies can construct perfect processes in complete isolation, where the components of just two or three elegantly designed products feed each other’s production cycles in a balanced, neatly closed loop. This is an extremely difficult, illogical way of designing a circular economy.

We need to look further afield, for outsider perspectives. We need collaboration and open standards across countries and industries. We need transparency in manufacturing processes and material production. We need products that can be understood, taken apart and repaired. We need to share knowledge of how resources flow throughout our system. And when good solutions are developed, we need to be able to use them, to build upon them, and to improve them, for the benefit of our planet and our society.

We need an open source approach to the circular economy.

Our ecological problems are shared by all of us – any solutions need to be shared too.

Open source means publishing how things are made, such as a recipe, software code, production data, or design files so that anyone can study, use, and build upon this information. This often occurs through decentralized and distributed collaboration: diverse groups discussing project ideas, giving feedback, fixing bugs, prototyping solutions and building useful, customisable software, hardware, tools and culture.

From the Free/Libre Open Source Software underlying most of the internet to Wikipedia and Open Street Map, we can see that such distributed collaboration can do great things. We can use the tools and techniques developed in this tradition to work together in an international and interdisciplinary way. Following success in the world of software, the open source model has now grown into an ever-widening movement, from open source hardware, open design, and open data to open government.

We believe that this way of collaboration – the open source way – and the transparency and freedom it entails, is the key and only way to make a highly diverse, complex and rapidly developing economy work in cycles.

During the Open Source Circular Economy Days we’ll be taking a holistic approach to understanding how different systems can interact, we’ll get to grips with the challenges we’re facing, we’ll share experience and inspiration openly, and we’ll start to build an open source circular economy. Join us.


Our Methodology: How do we plan to get there?

During the Open Source Circular Economy days we aim to bring circular economy initiatives and sustainability experts together with the open source approach. In distributed international working groups, we want to discuss and explore possibilities for an circular economy built upon the principles and possibilities of open source. With this approach there are many things that can be invented or “reinvented”. Some examples:

  • Open Educational Resources – to share best practices and tutorials, for example on compost-cycles or regenerative design
  • Open Source Hardware/Open Design Products – Open and transparent products are easier to maintain, repair, refurbish, reuse and (if the product is designed for it) also recycle. Open products tend toward modular designs which make all of the aforementioned processes even easier. Be inspired by the OpenStructures project, for example.
  • Open Source Software – Software to organize and analyse data about products and production is constantly improving. Making it open source would allow greater access to this technology, and allow better interoperability between collaborators. Life Cycle Assessment can already be done using openLCA, and our own team is developing a software within the IPO tables project.
  • Open Materials and Open Standards – Which materials are recyclable? What design principles and components have been proven to work for circular production? What machines and techniques for recycling work effectively? Making open standards in this field would enable compatibility, and ensure wider access to these technologies. Allowing others to help improve these techniques can also help promising prototypes develop into tangible solutions.
  • Open Production Data – Manufacturers collect ever more data in order to better organize flows of materials, products and energy; reducing material use or waste, maybe even creating some basic cycles. But this information tends to stay within the walls of one factory or company. Imagine what could be achieved by opening it up and reinventing collaboration between whole networks of factories and industries!
  • Open Waste Data – What kind of waste is produced by households, cities, and factories? how much, and where does it go? Making this information open allows people to analyse data, find anomalies and problems, develop solutions, and it also provides evidence to advocate for change.
  • Of course there are more. What could your sustainability idea, project, or field gain by adapting to the open source approach?

We want to explore these concepts through real challenges: We will rethink approaches to communication, design, development and business for a circular economy supported by open source. In many cases open strategies require certain adjustments to existing models – sometimes minor alterations, sometimes transformative change. There are strong business, communication and design models tried and tested by existing open source projects, but they are yet to be more fully explored by our wider culture.

Some Examples

already in development:


openLCA is open source software for Life Cycle Assessment. One of the very few bases already there to start the development of an open source circular economy. How might we develop systems like this for decentralized collaboration between whole networks of factories?

by Lukas Wegwerth, cc-by-sa


The OpenStructures project experiments based on a modular construction model where everyone designs for everyone on the basis of one shared open geometrical grid. What can we learn from this approach? Where else might this work?


Some products already communicate which plastics they are made from by using standardised recycling codes. But it’s still not a fully transparent process so most plastic is still burned, buried or thrown in the ocean. How could we design and communicate better to ensure recycling actually occurs?

Data Catlogue Toronto

Open Data Catalogue – Garbage and Recycling; look, the catalogue is almost empty. How can we improve it?

Join or support the Open Source Circular Economy Days to create more and better examples!


IMG Title: (Placeholder) made by Jenni Ottilie Keppler

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