A circular economy (CE) aims to decouple economic growth from resource consumption by cycling products and materials back into production, either by returning materials to generate new products, or by releasing benign substances to the environment through degradation.
Circularity can be embedded into products during the design phase, but such a transformation would require fundamental shifts in the way resources are extracted, products are designed, and businesses and consumers are engaged for reuse and recycling, along with a concurrent deployment of supporting energy, mobility, and end-of-life management infrastructure. Such a transformation would not only achieve environmental goals, but could also contribute to social and economic development.
While circular economy is advancing in Europe and Asia, CE is greatly lacking in the US. Moreover, current efforts in this domain are typically placed within disciplinary silos, leading to an incomplete understanding of system dynamics.
Achieving circularity will require transformative research that deeply integrates across engineering, architecture, logistics and operations, data science, chemistry and chemical engineering, and biology fields, to name a few.
Convergent circular economy research requires transdisciplinary teams to study not only their engineering designs, economic models, and the culture, but will also emphasize the connections between those components. We have assembled a team of chemical, environmental, and civil engineers, anthropologists, economists, and political scientists to engage in convergent research around CE. Our main areas of investigation are highlighted below.