Unravelling repurposing: a taxonomy for a promising circular business model strategy

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The Dutch government and leading academics in the field of circular economy propose that “repurposing”, i.e., finding new usages for discarded material, is important to reduce resource usage. Waste collectors, municipalities and start-ups increasingly find ways to develop circular business models, aiming for minimum loss of material integrity. Repurpose is a circular business model strategy which entails using a discarded product or its parts in a new product with a different function.
The aim of this research is to gain a better understanding of this promising but academically underexposed circular strategy by empirically exploring its key characteristics and developing a taxonomy that reflects the scope and potential of the concept. The taxonomy development was based on clustering and comparing 96 case examples using key characteristics and critical factors empirically collected by means of 11 semi-structured expert interviews. The taxonomy was iteratively refined and validated by means of workshops with experts.
This paper proposes a taxonomy and a comprehensive definition for repurposing. The Repurpose taxonomy distinguishes three main categories with increasing levels of material integrity: “Reprocess”, “Reshape” and “Recontextualize”. The taxonomy provides a refinement of existing circular business model patterns and frameworks for closing material loops strategies. It shows how repurposing may exploit the creative potential of design to fill the gap between reuse and recycling by retaining previously added value with three levels of physical adjustment.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2021
EventPLATE-2021: Product Lifetimes And The Environment - Virtual Conference, Ireland
Duration: 26 May 202128 May 2021




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