Mark Young Design


The Industrial Revolution Experiment

& The Circular Economy


Green… Recycling…Eco…Cradle To Cradle…Zero Waste…Sustainable…


Lots of words. Buzzwords. Buzzwords have come and gone are still evolving.

So what needs doing?

From my perspective, The Industrial Revolution Experiment is not something in the past – it is ongoing.

We are creating new materials and deploying them before we fully understand the repercussions. The excitement of invention and profit gets the better of us and before you know it, we have oceans full of plastic. Air slowly containing more CO2. And bodies bio-accumulating who knows what.

If we had intended this to happen, if we had designed it, we could congratulate ourselves!

But, tragically, we didn’t.

So what needs doing is to think beyond the linear Take-Make-Dispose model. To plan our technical ecosystem like natural ecosystems.





The basic idea behind a Circular Economy is to divide materials into 2 groups: Technical Materials & Biological Materials. The first are synthetic materials that are generally hard for nature to break down. We can say these exist in the ‘Technosphere’. The second group are materials that can be safely broken down by Nature. We refer to these as belonging to the ‘Biosphere’.

In reality we all live in the Biosphere there are some fantastic descriptions here but it helps us to distinguish the two. It highlights that we need to deal with each in different ways. Ultimately this whole system should be powered by renewable energy. Meaning, like nature over millennia, that the system would be truly sustainable.

Dealing with these materials requires a closed loop approach. Like nature with Biological materials, we need to approach Technical materials with the plan that “Waste = Food”. The diagram below is from The Ellen Macarthur Foundation and shows in more detail how it could work.

EMF Interactive diagram screengrab

This diagram from The Great Recovery, set up by The RSA, expands on the RH side of the previous diagram. It clearly shows 4 different approaches that could work for particular products and particular people in the supply chain. It offers much more detail about who is involved and how we should approach the way we design different products.


So there you go. Everything needs redesigning. Get involved.