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Circular Industry 4.0: Redesigning the future

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Executive Summary

Lead contributor: Dr. Alessio Franconi

This chapter will provide insights into how technology can concretely shape and enable the Circular Economy throughout the supply chain. The industrial revolution offers companies great opportunities in terms of process efficiency, cost reduction, and productivity improvement and to rethink circular products and new services. The different sections in the chapter introduce the reader to more relevant approaches and technologies for narrowing, slowing, and closing resource cycles. Where applicable, the chapter provides brief case examples to help readers better grasp the alternatives available. The approach is based on the product life cycle, from primary or secondary material extraction through resource recovery to start a new product life cycle. The chapter is divided into eight parts (1) Industry 4.0 (2) Urban mining the future of mining industry (3) Intelligent systems: Smart Circular Design; (4) Smart factory, (5) Use and Service in the digital era, (6) Recapture value from users; (7) Recovery strategies and technologies opportunities and (8) Final remarks. The first section explains industry 4.0 and its value and influence on circular product design activities and strategic decisions. Industry 4.0 will include the economic, social, and environmental elements to address the issue and prospects. The reader will understand the chapter’s key technologies and structure in this section. The second section presents how new technologies are revolutionizing the concept of material extraction. The third section introduces how technologies are changing designing products and systems. The fourth section discusses smart factories and technology linked to product manufacture, focusing on how to decrease resource use (e.g., electricity and materials). The most significant advantages of intelligent manufacturing are reduced resource consumption, improved operations across local business networks, and increased access to data for resource reuse. The fifth section of the chapter will present some of the essential digital technologies, particularly digital platforms. In this section, the technologies mentioned play a key role in slowing down resource cycles and promoting maintenance and reuse. The sixth section introduces technologies for obtaining value from consumers. In this phase of the supply chain, reverse logistics begins, leading to the product being properly integrated and reprocessed. The technologies utilized for product reconditioning are introduced in the seventh section. This section summarizes how these technologies may slow down and close resource cycles at the beginning of a new product life cycle. The eighth and last section presents the remarks of the chapter and the key takeaways. This chapter is primarily intended for all stakeholders engaged in decision-making across the supply chain, such as product designers, industrial designers, process design engineers, product development managers, accounting, marketing, distribution, and strategy managers and employees. 

The main SDGs of this chapter are Goal 7: clean and accessible energy, as energy conservation and the utilization of alternative energy are critical in smart manufacturing. Objective 9: Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure directly parallel technology and industrial innovation on a broader scale. Finally, goal 12: To ensure sustainable consumption and production addressed in the chapter via the links between digital technologies and consumers. 

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Discover what's inside

Why is Industry 4.0 crucial in the Circular Economy?

The fourth industrial revolution is decentralizing and self-regulating the system. Discover how Industry 4.0 enables businesses to monitor, optimize, and improve their supply chain in real-time. The potential of new data, connections, and processes are explained via an overview of the most important technologies.

How will resources be extracted in a Circular Economy?

New technologies contribute to the reduction of mining’s environmental impact. However, novel approaches such as urban mining are gaining popularity. Explore the most cutting-edge technologies and learn how resource extraction and reuse in urban areas may increase material circularity.

How can technology advancing circular design?

Multiple sensors are included into products to provide additional functionality or to monitor how the material or device is being used or reacting during operation. Discover here how the data obtained by various sensors may be utilized to inform design choices.

How can smart factories enhance the Circular Economy?

The concept of “smart factories” is central to Industry 4.0. Explore here how future factories will be able to make quick design modifications and operate autonomously. Also, how much more easily digital data can be moved than commodities or products.

What role do digital technologies play in enabling new circular services?

In the Circular Economy, products are leased, rented, or shared wherever possible. Through an examination of key technologies, explore how digitalization allows the traceability and localization of goods, enabling the creation of more user-centric services.

How can value be recaptured in the digital era?

Digitization is crucial not only for consumers but, above all, for reverse logistics. Knowing the history of a product, component or material helps its reuse or regeneration. Discover know how to guide and encourage consumer recovery behaviours in the new digital era.

How can technology support in the slowing and closing of flows?

Technologies enable the facilitation, acceleration, and enhancement of the slowing and closure of flow cycles. Get access now and explore the major value recovery strategies, as well as the technology that makes the Circular Economy viable and practical.


Realizing a Circular Economy is now conceivable, thanks to advancements in innovation and technical progress. These technologies’ potentials and prospects will be linked and described to encourage thoughtful and focused adoption for the transition to the Circular Economy.

Meet the Leader

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Enrollment Information

  • Once you have enrolled, you will be given access to our Learning Management System.
  • The course is entirely online and self-paced. We estimate that the total effort required to be 3 hours.
  • You will be guided through the original content of the course with dynamic, rich, enjoyable, narrated, and easy-to-understand content. The course is divided into easily navigated sections focusing at each stage on the learning objectives to be achieved. Each section is followed by non-graded “knowledge check questions”, to help you ensure that you have successfully assimilated the content. You can go back and view the content as often as you like.
  • When you reach the end of the course, you will be awarded the Certificate of Completion.

What you will gain

  • Access to one Circular Economy course, with free access to the content for one year.
  • A digitally enabled, verifiable, and shareable certificate acknowledging your achievement.
  • One-year free membership in the Circular Economy Alliance Community, including access to Circular Economy Alliance members, resources, and events.
  • Special access to Circular Economy related events, research, resources, and news.

Please note:

  • In many EU countries, the cost of certification can be covered by personal or corporate “training accounts”. Please inquire within your organization or with the appropriate institution within your country for more information.


Circular Economy Alliance Code of Conduct and Code of Ethics

The Circular Economy Alliance platform, services, and products are designed to appeal to and be used by people from a wide variety of different backgrounds, countries, religions, and cultural norms. These diversity and inclusiveness are core values of the CEA, and we encourage our Community to embrace it and share it. That said, this geographic and cultural diversity can make effective communications and general policy definition a bit challenging.

That said, CEA is committed to advancing the transition to a just and inclusive Circular Economy which aims to decouple economic growth from resource use, eliminate waste by design, and tackle climate change. To achieve its mission and vision of a socially fair Circular Economy, CEA has adopted the principles of Corporate Social Responsibility and endeavours to promote the common good while creating value for all stakeholders. With this in mind, the Code of Conduct has been developed to ensure all activity on the platform and within the CEA community is mutually respectful. The Code of Ethics sets out the guiding ethical principles relative to all professional activities of the certified members of the Circular Economy Alliance, informs the actions of our partner network, and defines the conduct of CEA staff and persons acting on behalf of the Company.

The purpose of our Code of Conduct & Code of Ethics is to ensure that the Circular Economy Alliance platform (the Platform), products and services are inclusive and that we, our members, and our community uphold the principles and values linked to Circular Economy, social responsibility, sustainable development and all relevant domains, to ensure that people and the planet are not harmed in the name of profit, and that we all conduct ourselves with mutual respect.

Code of Conduct

The CEA Code of Conduct reflects the ethics and values of the Platform, product, services, and community. It has been prepared with members of the CEA community (the Community), content contributors, instructional designers, and administrators based on established best practices. With the involvement of our stakeholders, we will continue to update the Code of Conduct as we add new products, services, and activities and as we receive feedback from our learners and community members.

We cannot foresee all eventualities and align with all local regulations, so the Code of Conduct should indicate the nature of interactions and the social dynamic we would like to see on this Platform and within the Community. In the event of an issue not covered by this Code of Conduct, the CEA team will decide whether a behavior is acceptable or not, in a manner that is as fair and transparent as possible, while respecting the confidentiality of all involved.

This Code of Conduct applies to all activities on the Talent Learning Management Platform, the Circular Economy Alliance website, its social media pages (Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Discord, etc.), including comments, forum posts, and private messages.

Certified Alumni, members of the Community, as well as candidates for Circular Economy certification are encouraged to adopt the following guidelines for conduct:

  • Contribute to maintaining a safe, supportive, and orderly online learning environment that is conducive to learning and to show respect and dignity to other persons and to property.
  • Contact or communicate with CEA administrators and other personnel in a respectful, positive manner.
  • Behave and communicate on and off the Platform in accordance with the principles of Circular Economy, social responsibility, and inclusiveness.
  • Help ensure all CEA members and personnel have a positive experience in all interactions with you.
  • Appropriate behavior we encourage is as follows: communicating and interacting with respect; demonstrating empathy and sensitivity; giving constructive feedback; acting in accordance with the principles of inclusiveness, that is, showing respect for other norms, cultures, life preferences; promoting the values and principles of Circular Economy, social responsibility, and sustainable development.
  • Maintain behavior free from all forms of bullying, harassment, and discrimination.
  • Other forms of inappropriate behavior that will not be tolerated include dangerous, inciteful, or hateful speech; harassment or intimidation; threats of violence; intentional disruption of online discussion, webinars, conference, or other events; retaliation; influencing or encouraging any of the above.
  • We are a learning community, united around the principles of Circular Economy. As such, we encourage experimentation, a growth mindset, and tolerance for failures, mistakes, or lack of understanding.
  • Despite our shared values, disagreements and misunderstandings are bound to occur in a community as diverse as the Community. In the event, have a calm discussion, ask for clarification, and don’t assume that someone is intentionally being offensive.
  • Please get in touch with the site administrators to report any conduct, posts, activity or content that you do not believe is in accordance with this Code of Conduct. We encourage the Community members to report any incidents that violate the Code of Conduct. The CEA team will respond in a timely manner, and the member who violated the Code of Conduct will be contacted directly. Please use the Contact Us link to report any breaches.
  • Please protect your own and other people’s privacy. Please be mindful not to post or otherwise share your own or other people’s personal information publicly online.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all content posted on the Talent Learning Management System is private and is not searchable online.
  • Unless otherwise stated, all content posted on the Community platform is publicly visible and searchable online.
  • If you delete your CEA Community account, you can request that your Community posts and private messages be removed or anonymized.
  • The website administrators may delete activity, comments, posts, and equivalent that do not adhere to the CEA Code of Conduct.
  • In the event of a breach of the Code of Conduct, we either issue a warning, announce an account suspension or, in the event of a grievous violation, we may announce account expulsion and removal from the platform and the Community.
  • If you are part of the Community, we share the same principles. Let’s share the responsibility for creating a positive dynamic on the Platform.

Code of Ethics 

Certified Alumni, members of the Community, as well as candidates for Circular Economy certification are strongly encouraged to uphold the highest standards of ethical norms in line with Circular Economy principles and values:

  • Act with transparency, honesty, integrity, and make the interests of society and the environment a priority, avoid any known conflicts of interest, and aim to create value for all stakeholders.
  • Promote the circularity and sustainability of the systems regulating economic life according to the principles of “people, planet and prosperity”.
  • Act with respect for others and the environment and practice their professional activities in an inclusive and non-discriminatory manner that upholds the values of equity, equality and tolerance.
  • Exercise their leadership and decision-making skills in the pursuit of establishing a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workplace and in society.
  • Act in a way that furthers the integrity of the discipline of Circular Economy and its representatives.

The code of conduct is regularly reviewed to reflect necessary adaptations that emerge from input received through our CEA members’ reporting or by changes to the prevailing regulatory framework.

Effective as of: 1 March 2022

Last revised: 28 February 2022

More detailed information can me found in the General Terms and Conditions and the Certifications Terms and Conditions.


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