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Elliptical economy – even more sustainable than circular

Published: 17 November 2022

Bringing about a more circular use of materials is an important piece of the puzzle to succeed in the green transition. Now Roland Larsson, Professor of Machine elements at Luleå University of Technology, takes it one step further.
– We must strive for an elliptical economy that is even more sustainable than the circular one, because the products' use phase will then be longer, he says.

The world is not only facing an energy transition, but also a materials transition. Therefore, there has been a great focus on circular economy, and that the materials that are already in use must be reused to a much greater extent. Instead of constantly adding virgin material, material already in the manufacturing process should be circularly used. This means that, at least in theory, it is possible to use the same material in an eternal cycle.

Extends the product's use phase

In the traditional economy, which has been the practice for many decades, materials are extracted and refined, the product is manufactured, transported out to the customer, used, and thrown away when it no longer fulfils its function.

According to the modern way of thinking, a product's life cycle is circular rather than linear. Thorough product development takes place first, before the actual manufacturing, and right from the start the thought is that the product should be able to be repaired and updated during its lifetime. When the product is manufactured, it is transported to the customer and there the use phase begins. When the product is taken out of use, the material is recycled so that it can be used again in new products.

–  The use phase plays a major role as it determines how soon the product must be recycled. The longer the product is kept in the use phase, for example serviced, repaired, and upgraded, the less need for new manufacturing. In a well-functioning circular economy, the use phase gets longer and longer and makes the circle elliptical. It could therefore be described as an elliptical economy, says Roland Larsson.


Roland Larsson

Roland Larsson, Professor and Head of Subject

Phone: +46 (0)920 491325
Organisation: Machine Elements, Machine Elements, Department of Engineering Sciences and Mathematics