Circulate on Fridays: Circular Economy & Food, Cradle to Cradle Design Challenge, the end of Bitcoin?


Every Friday, Circulate rounds up a collection of interesting circular economy related stories and articles. Here are our picks on food, Cradle to Cradle design, bitcoin and myths around the sharing economy.

Image: Barent Roth
Image: Barent Roth

This week the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute announced the winners of the 2015 product design challenge. Four projects were chosen based on criteria relating to “Cradle to Cradle® design for the circular economy” and the use of “safe materials that can be perpetually cycled and are designed with thoughtful use and reuse scenarios”. The best student project went to the ‘Onward Bag’, a design that “takes advantage of the embodied energy in the already processed plastic bags.” A recyclable bike share helmet picked up the award in the Professional category, and categories focused around Autodesk software and use of aluminium resulted in a biodegradable broom from RIT and a disassemblable public transport seating solution. The bi-annual challenge re-opened today, so if you have a C2C design idea and fancy being in with chance of winning $6,000, visit the challenge website.

A paper on the Transition towards Circular Economy in the Food System was published this week; the result of a workshop coordinated by Helsinki University Centre for Environment. Investigating the areas of phosphorous, meat consumption and production-supply-disposal chains, the findings suggest that “the circular economy provides a framework in which society can create cross-sectoral policy to support varied initiatives in different “parts of the circle” for the ultimate goal of breaking away from the linear and extractive model to a more sustainable mode of production and consumption”. In addition, the paper investigates the impact of “the theory of socio-technical transition” on the transition to a circular economy, and makes a number of policy recommendations for accelerating this shift.

Image: Imgur

What is a bitcoin? No one really knows. But for some, Bitcoin represents an alternative to official currencies, showing potential for a more diverse and resilient financial system in the future. And in a circular economy that has effective flows of materials, energy and information, complementary currencies like Bitcoin could help reposition money as a medium of exchange as opposed to a commodity. Sounds good? Well unfortunately leading Bitcoin developer Mike Hearn has just published a detailed post on Medium stating his belief that the digital currency “has failed” to live up to its promise. We won’t pretend to completely understand what Mike means when he starts talking about how “the block chain is full”, but essentially “what was meant to be a new, decentralised form of money that lacked “systemically important institutions” and “too big to fail” has become something even worse: a system completely controlled by just a handful of people”.

If you need to add to your endless binder of interpretations of the sharing economy, then look no further – this article has doodles! The president of runs through the ‘top myths of the sharing economy’, and, doodles aside, the piece does remind us of some important questions. For example, whether ‘The Sharing Economy has Created Another Stock Bubble that Will Inevitably Lead to Higher Unemployment’ and if ‘The Sharing Economy Creates Free Riders and Perpetuates Bad Behavior’. You’ll find more questions than answers, other than author Jim Pickell’s belief that “it’s almost a certainty that capitalistic motivations will continue to define how this movement evolves.”

In other not-really-sharing-economy news, clothes consignment startup Threadflip bid farewell to its customers, despite gaining 1.5 million users and raising $21.1 million in venture funding. It’s joining with Le Tote, the ‘Netflix for clothes’. While it’s a stretch to put this in the sharing economy bucket, the Le Tote model – paying for access to fashionable clothes rather than owning them outright – could be key trend in the future of apparel and enable more effective use of materials and energy in a circular economy. It’s relatively clear how these ‘performance models’ can work for a jet engine, bike or washing machine, but the success of Le Tote further shows how some customer preferences are shifting from ownership to access. Also this week, reKindness entered the fashion space by opening up their platform in private beta. Like Le Tote, this model is also based on the redistribution of idle assets (those clothes in the back of your wardrobe you keep meaning to wear), but on the back of a community credit system rather than cash. So don’t go writing complementary currencies off just yet.

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The Author

Joe Iles

Joe Iles

I'm Editor in Chief of Circulate and Digital Architect at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.

When I'm not discussing the circular economy, I also love talking about digital media and online trends, memes, music, bad films and good beer.

You can find me on twitter @joeiles or email joe[at]