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463 - Circular Economy

Core/Elective: Elective
Credits: 1.0
Quarter Taught: Winter


This class will cover the core principles of a circular economy. It will use systems thinking to understand the technological, economic and policy implications of circular economy transitions. It will focus on real-world applications, evaluating the feasibility of achieving zero waste and circular outcomes within industries or geographies.


Course Objectives:

Students will develop a solid foundation in:

  • Systems Thinking and Circular Design: This paradigm underlies much of the development of CEs and is an effective professional tool. Through this course, students will develop the necessary skills to be able to integrate a systems-based perspective in their analyses of situations. Systems Thinking will be cultivated through case studies and analysis projects.  
  • Material Flows: A basic understanding of the current state of waste and materials management systems, and the technological and other constraints that must be transcended to deliver circular outcomes. This course will impart an understanding of topics such as the biological cycle, energy flows and industrial ecology. Through the medium of case studies, it will also explore properties of common materials such as metals, rubber and plastic—focusing on the manner in which these properties can aid the integration into a circular system.  
  • Business Models: A circular economy requires new and changed business models to function. We will analyze models of financing and running a circular system. We will also look at the bigger picture, exploring how global supply chains can scale up to faster implement and accommodate circular economies.  
  • Incentivizing and Measuring the Circular Economy: Policy considerations are important to the success of a circular economy. This course will consider the practicalities of delivering a circular economy, addressing the key incentives of all stakeholders involved. It will also consider the available tools to measure the impact and circularity of such systems.