The circular economy: 12. Use intensive



A white-tailed Eagle. Picture taken at the Hawk Conservatory near Andover. (Really worth a visit.) Nothing to do with the text below but that is worth a visit, too.


The science: There are very few of the industrial and consumer products which work all the time after manufacture, delivery and commissioning. They sit there and sleep. These products do not do what they were designed and bought for, for maybe 90 % of their life.

The bad news: There is a fundamental problem with the consumer society – it is hooked on ownership. Owning a car which sits on the drive for over 90 % of its life is a waste of resources that we are progressively less able to afford.  And most of us, emotionally, really do like ownership; it will not change easily.

The good news: Some years ago, I was working with the Marketing Director of a UK company with an American owner. When discussing the acquisition of some new equipment, that person observed that his USA masters “would rather hire the QE2 for a day than buy a rubber dingy”.  “Use intensive” is what they were after; that investment should not sit idle.  These is an interesting development in the “sales” of domestic cars currently.  Cars are moving towards acquisition by some form of rental or leasing, rather than ownership, often in a 3 year deal.  That vehicle goes back to source ownership and could be re-conditioned for re-use. That could encourage longer life basic components with renewal only of what the business might call “customer-facing materials”. It is actually possible to design and build an engine which would last forever.

Bill Butterworth, Land Research Ltd..  8 August 16