Buying light hours instead of lamps, sit hours instead of chairs and washing cycles instead of washing machines. Renting the use of products instead of owning them is an essential part of the principles underlying the circular economy. Dutch startup Turntoo wants to accelerate the transition to a circular economy by transforming products into services. Instead of buying a lamp in the store, Turntoo’s vision is that consumers buy the right to use the lamp’s output, which is light. The underlying service contract is governed by Turntoo and includes provisions on how to deal with the product at contract expiration. In order to make this work, both consumer and manufacturer need to adapt and change their current behaviour.
Manufacturers should adopt ‘Cradle to Cradle’ design.
For manufacturers to really profit from the circular business model, they need to design their products using valuable materials that retain their quality once recycled into new products. If they fully implement this in their production process creating zero-waste, they only need to buy the raw materials once and reuse them indefinitely. The result is that the market price of the raw materials becomes irrelevant for the manufacturer. In the case after 15 years, the new products have evolved and do not require the raw material anymore, there will always be a market for these valuable, high-quality materials. Turntoo will act here as a commodities bank, finding other manufacturers who can use the materials in their products.
Consumers should be less attached to owning products.
Consumers are buying a service not a product, which means that ownership of everyday products is redefined. The consumer will own the right to use the product and therefore is contractually bound to return the product after use. This might take some time to get adjusted to, although it is already happening around us more than we are aware. Take for example the leasing of your smartphone. The telecom provider remains the owner and charges the consumer a monthly fee for using the phone. However, the telecom provider still gives the consumer the option to take over the phone, which in a performance-based circular economy as envisioned by Turntoo would not be possible. Moreover, the ownership is not with the manufacturer but the leasing company (i.e. the telecom provider). Turntoo assures there is a set-up plan on how to activate the raw materials in the smartphone for reuse. Another example is music. In the past we bought CDs, then we got iTunes that caused the ownership of the music to already fade a bit. Today consumers are massively using subscription based music streaming services such as Spotify and no longer owning the music at all.
Turntoo is already putting their vision into practice, working with companies such as Philips and Desso to deliver complete circular economy buildings, interiors, household appliances and ‘living’ for housing corporations. In addition, they are offering awareness and consultancy services.
To summarise, I found researching into this company very interesting, informative and highly useful for my upcoming presentation on ‘How to Design a Product to Last a Lifetime’. It has definitely got me asking a lot of questions… Perhaps we don’t actually need to consume less, but rather just consume in a different way? If we can change the relationship that exists between the producer and the consumer where the producer retains the ownership of the raw materials, we can then separate the value of the raw materials to the value of the performance, resulting in the consumer only paying for the performance that they require. Perhaps this re-design of the consumer ‘model’ is truly the only way that we can make a product last a lifetime?