Understanding upcycling and circular economy and their interrelationships through literature review for design education

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nad
Author: Sung, Kyungeun
Series: ICED
Institution: De Montfort University, UK
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 3721-3730
DOI number: https://doi.org/10.1017/pds.2023.373


Design and engineering are fundamental activities in shaping the world we live in. Educating new generations in design and engineering, therefore, is crucial to build a better and more sustainable world. The changes in education for the transition from a linear economy to a circular economy, in particular, has become a priority for many educators. Aligned with the circular economy, a promising umbrella concept and practice called 'upcycling' is emerging. The concepts and practices in the circular economy and upcycling overlap depending on the definitions of the terms in various disciplines and sectors in different parts of the world. This has caused some confusion and misunderstanding. For educators aiming to teach students about sustainable design, production and consumption, it is beneficial to distinguish between these two concepts. Understanding the relationships (or interrelationships) between them in theory and practice is important for the educators to offer clear guidance and recommendations to future designers and engineers. This paper provides literature review on upcycling and circular economy, compares these two concepts, and visualises their interrelationship as draft teaching materials for design education.

Keywords: Circular economy, Design education, Sustainability, Transition, Upcycling

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