Product Design in a Circular Economy: Development of a Typology of Key Concepts and Terms

Marcel den Hollander*, Conny Bakker, Erik-Jan Hultink

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

308 Citations (Scopus)


In a circular economy (CE), the economic and environmental value of materials is preserved for as long as possible by keeping them in the economic system, either by lengthening the life of the products formed from them or by looping them back in the system to be reused. The notion of waste no longer exists in a CE, because products and materials are, in principle, reused and cycled indefinitely. Taking this description as a starting point, the article asks which guiding principles, design strategies, and methods are required for circular product design and to what extent these differ from the principles, strategies, and methods of eco-design. The article argues that there is a fundamental distinction to be made between eco-design and circular product design and proceeds to develop, based on an extensive literature review, a set of new concepts and definitions, starting from a redefinition of product lifetime and introducing new terms such as presource and recovery horizon. The article then takes Walter Stahel's Inertia Principle as the guiding principle in circular product design and develops a typology of approaches for Design for Product Integrity, with a focus on tangible durable consumer products. The newly developed typology contributes to a deeper understanding of the CE as a concept and informs the discussion on the role of product design in a CE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-525
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Special Issue: Exploring the Circular Economy


  • Circular economy
  • Closed loop
  • Eco-design
  • Product design
  • Product durability
  • Remanufacturing


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