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99% Invisible Podcast: Why Design for Circularity Can Finally Make the World Less Wasteful

Amp Robotics robot sorting plastic waste on a conveyor belt

If you’re a fan of the popular 99% Invisible podcast and the kinds of stories published on Redshift, then you’re in the right place. Autodesk and Redshift partnered with 99% Invisible host Roman Mars and his crew for six podcasts tied to the show’s mission of uncovering the fascinating—yet inconspicuous—ways that architecture and design shape the planet.

The fifth episode in this series highlights the concept of circularity, which aims to design out waste and pollution from products and keep those products (or their components and materials) in use for as long as possible through closed-loop systems—think remanufacturing, refurbishing, and recycling. This is in direct contrast to the linear product life cycle that sees everything from textiles to K-cups simply thrown away after being used, only to end up landfills for millennia.

“Circularity starts with design,” says Zoé Bezpalko, Autodesk sustainability strategy manager for the design and manufacturing industry. In this week’s podcast, Bezpalko notes that no product will be recycled if it wasn’t first designed for recycling—yet even those products face end-of-life difficulties. (Perhaps that’s not surprising considering that humans recycle less than 9% of all plastic on the planet.) But recycling is just one part of the circular process: It starts with product design but also includes the business model and the infrastructure that supports that product, from the supply chain to waste management.

Fortunately, design for circularity is gaining momentum around the world, with a variety of innovators leading the way. Check out part 3 of the podcast below to learn more.

About the Author

Erin Hanson is Redshift's managing editor and a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism. She loves music, food, wine, and grammar (not necessarily in that order).

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