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Manufacturing in a Circular Economy

Circular economy at NIST no text

Workshop on manufacturing in a circular economy

NIST and ASTM International hosted a standards roadmapping workshop on April 20-21. Read the workshop report.

Under a circular economy, materials are not discarded after they are used but rather brought back into the economy through a variety of means. This vision is challenging manufacturers to rethink how they design, produce, and ship products away from the old way of the linear economy (take, make, waste) to a more regenerative process. Consumers want products that are produced using more sustainable practices. Industries are responding by finding ways to better and more efficiently use resources. This comes in the form of products made from recovered materials, less packaging, and design and manufacturing practices optimized to reduce energy use and waste.

The current trend towards more and better data to improve manufacturing presents an opportunity to create manufacturing systems that are optimized to be less resource intensive, have less impact on the environment, and more flexible to adjust to changing designs and material streams. New standards and business models are needed to help industry achieve their circular economy goals, demonstrate their results, and measure progress. The experts in manufacturing and data systems at NIST's Systems Integration Division (SID) work alongside industry and with standards organizations (specifically ASTM International and ISO) to address foundational research and specific standards needed to consistently measure progress and show results.

This project is part of NIST's Circular Economy program, which supports the nation’s need to transition away from a model in which materials are extracted from the environment, manufactured into products, used, then discarded (a so called “linear economy”) toward one in which the atoms and molecules that make up those products repeatedly cycle within the economy and retain their value.

The figure below is a draft standards roadmap that shows information flows at different stages of a life cycle and standards that relate to each life cycle stage, plus a list of relevant standards that are published (color coded in relation to each life cycle) and under development (red star) as of August, 2022.

Circular economy for product life cycle
A draft standards roadmap with information flows across the product life cycle.

Credit: Maya Reslan
Sustainable manufacturing life cycle standards list
Relevant standards that are published or under development as of August, 2022.
Credit: Maya Reslan
Created October 21, 2021, Updated July 9, 2024