Full product recovery: circular economy strategy for efficient resource management

Full product recovery: circular economy strategy for efficient resource management
© rrudenkois, #163549351, 2019, source:
Energy, Materials, Water, Waste, Carbon
All manufacturing industries, All sectors
Medium cost
Resource savings: Raw material:
The revalorisation of a discarded product means saving input material compared to the manufacturing of a completely new product; these savings can be more than 90 %
Resource savings: Energy:
Up to 85 % energy savings can be achieved
Resource savings: Water:
If a product is fully recovered, water savings can be up to 90 %
Resource savings: Waste:
Full product recovery minimises up to 90 % waste and avoids sending valuable resources to landfill
Payback time:
The profitability of product recovery depends on the increase in the value of the product and the costs related to the process, therefore the return on investment differs.
Total cost savings:
Cost savings are achieved due to lower material, energy and water consumption, and savings in waste management costs, in comparison with the manufacturing of a new product. However, the economic viability of product revalorisation depends on factors like the time and cost of reverse logistics, and the difficulty of the revalorisation process. In the end, how much is saved depends on the relationship between the costs of the revalorisation process and the increase in the value of the product.
Co2 emission reduction:
GHG emissions may be 70 times lower in revalorisation processes than in the manufacturing of new products
Premises and operation areas:
Product and design, Production processes, Waste and recycling
Size of company:
Micro (less than 10), Small (less than 50), Medium (less than 250), Large (more than 250)
Advancement in applying resource efficiency measures:
Intermediate, Advanced
What is in it for you:
Recovering the whole product achieves higher resource savings than simply recovering its parts or materials.
Descriptive information:

Currently, discarded products are often considered as ‘waste’, while in the best cases, some parts are recovered or the product is recycled to recover materials. A circular economy model closes the production cycle to optimise the use of resources and minimise the generation of waste. In this model there is a recovery hierarchy; first, the complete product is recovered, then its parts and the materials, and, finally, the embedded energy is recovered. Landfill disposal is the last option since it does not recover any resources.

Full product recovery is thus the most sustainable strategy in this hierarchy. Product recovery is a process that seeks to increase the value of discarded objects through a revalorisation process, in order to reintroduce them into the economic-productive system.

There are four valorisation processes for full product recovery, which differ from each other due to the modifications they make on the product:

Reuse: using a discarded product again without making any changes, or with some small changes. The owner may remain the same (1st hand), in which case the changes depend on the user, but there may be a change in the product ownership (2nd hand), in which case there will be a repair and evaluation phase before returning the product to a secondary market.
Renovate: the process of returning a product to an aesthetic state that makes it look 'like new' through various treatments like cleaning, polishing, painting, etc. It includes repairing damaged components. These products are generally destined for secondary markets.
Reconditioning: the process of returning a product to its original technical condition or a ‘like new’ condition by repairing damaged components and replacing or repairing components that will soon become obsolete (preventive repair). The output quality of the final product may be lower than the original, therefore the warranty is typically lower. These products are usually destined for secondary markets.
Remanufacturing: the process of returning a product or component to an equivalent or superior state to that of the original product. It can include an update phase to improve the performance of the product with respect to the original, therefore the warranty of the remanufactured product or component can be like a new product.

To choose the best revalorisation process for a discarded product, it is important to establish the profitability of the process by comparing how it will increase the product value and the costs related to that process. In general, remanufacturing is the process which increases the product value the most, followed by reconditioning, then renovate, and last by reuse.

On the other hand, comparing the costs related to each revalorisation process, reuse is the cheapest one, followed by renovating, then reconditioning, and last by remanufacturing. Nevertheless, all four revalorisation processes are usually cheaper than manufacturing a new product and achieve considerable savings because of lower resource consumption.

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