The biggest challenge of the circular economy

Our society is no longer in touch with building materials. Materials are unknown to many people, as is the process of making objects. According to Mark Miodownik, speaker at the Circular Economy Day, the first step towards circular economy lies in (re)acquiring this knowledge and skill.

Mark Miodownik is lecturer, researcher and director of the Institute of Making at University College London. He is one of the main specialists in materials innovation. Although Miodownik is a scientist, he is of the opinion that the biggest challenge lies in trying to generate a change in how people look at materials.

Inventing new materials involves by definition thinking about how to maximise their life cycle and how to dispose of them afterwards. That is one of the reasons why Mark Miodownik’s research is focusing on self-healing materials. For example, the surfaces of self-healing roads would be automatically maintained, while this task is now costing governments loads of money. Thanks to a new type of asphalt with self-amalgamating properties it is possible to extend the life cycle of roads and achieve significant savings.

Cultural revolution

Development with innovating materials does not have to be limited only to useful and functional properties, it can also be used for aesthetic products that are conquering their place in our world and have a cultural meaning. Smartphones are just one example with an average life cycle of just two years. A smartphone for life is therefore quite a challenge in a world where fashion and trends continuously encourage us to consume more.

Materials innovation is therefore more than just a technological matter, our entire society, education and especially the business models, which control our economy, will have to change. Ideas such as ‘longer life-cycle’, ‘maximising the economic cycle of materials’, ‘changing our way of producing, selling and consuming’ are central topics in the circular economy, but the biggest challenge for the circular economy is cultural, rather than technological. 

Do you want to find out more about Mark Miodownik’s vision and discover what the circular economy can mean for your company? Join us on 21 November at the Circular Economy Day!

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