2| Industrial Process and Agri-food Systems

Proceedings of RSD7, Relating Systems Thinking and Design 7
Politecnico di Torino, Turin, Italy  23th-26th October 2018

Section content 

Dal Palù D., Coraglia V., Lerma B.
The dark side of high tech precious materials recovery. Overview on the critical issues, opportunities and best practices from a material library point of view

Darzentas J., Darzentas J., de Bruin A., Power M., Prado P., Carmien S., Hobbs E.
Systemic Design in food security and resilience: Building a holon

Giordano R., Montacchini E., Tedesco S.
Building the fashion’s future. How to turn textiles’ wastes into ecological building products

Konietzko J., Bocken N., Hultink E.J.
Business experiments for Circular Urban Food System

Savio L., Thiebat F., Bosia D., Pennacchio R., Manni V.
Natural fibers insulation panels: an adaptive production

Van der Velden M., Geirbo H. C.
Repair = Care: Systems stories from Norway and Ghana

The dark side of high tech precious materials recovery.Overview on the critical issues, opportunities and best practices from a material library point of view

Dal Palù Doriana, Coraglia Valentina, Lerma Beatrice
Politecnico di Torino

Circular economy
Environmental sustainable processes
Ethics in design
Recycled materials
Precious and non-precious metals, urban mining

Eco-sustainable design strategies act as the liaison between different disci- plines and professionals: the world of production and research, companies and the key issues of project development –economics, society and envi- ronment [Lerma, 2014]. Many of the environmental sustainability issues are either directly or indirectly linked to materials and their life cycle [Lin- dahl, Robèrt and Broman, 2014]. Environmental impacts occur at different stages of the life cycle, including the extraction, production, transportation and processing of raw materials, as at the stage when the product is actually used and disposed of [Vezzoli and Manzini, 2007]. Furthermore, a materialcan be considered eco-sustainable when it is effectively and efficiently used within a specific project and integrated into the entire application system.Moreover, it comes to environmental sustainability when opting for the useof materials and semi-finished products sourced from areas comparable tothat where the company operates [Allione, De Giorgi, Lerma and Petruccelli, 2012]. Therefore, creating a network of contacts in the region able to assist manufacturing companies, particularly SMEs, when selecting their sup- pliers or researching and assessing local partners for processing operations appears as more and more necessary, but this approach cannot be always pursued.

Eco-sustainable design strategies play a role of utter importance for the development of innovative sustainable products and production processes[El-Haggar, 2007]. Specifically, in an evolving scenario of increasing demate-rialization and greater complexity of objects, several specific materials alrea-dy in production and those still being field tested, become more meaningful[Ferrara, 2004], such as those precious and not precious ones coming from the e-waste domain. The rapid expansion of technology and, what is more, the programmed obsolescence of these products, means that a very large amount of e-waste is created every year, every day, every minute [Baldé, Forti, Gray, Kuehr, and Stegmann, 2015].

Different materials are present in e-waste: the base metals include iron, cop- per, aluminium, nickel, zinc, selenium, indium, gallium and precious metals. Hazardous substances that can be found in e-waste include mercury, beryl- lium, lead, arsenic, cadmium and antimony instead. In addition, the larger material group consists of plastics, glass and ceramics [Fornalczyk, Willner, Francuz and Cebulski, 2013], adopted for the case and the outer part of thedevices. The availability of these materials generated the new definition of“urban mining” as the activity of recovery materials from urban waste beco- ming “the mines of the future”, and providing materials for reuse and cuttingcosts and landfill waste.

The recovery of metals and precious metals from electronic waste (e-waste) has been in fact an important topic not only for economic aspect but also for recycling rare natural sources and reducing the e-waste to prevent the envi- ronmental pollution, in other terms, following the 7Rs Golden Rule usually adopted for a sustainable waste management [El-Haggar, 2007]: in order to achieve the correct use and application of materials from a green perspecti- ve, eco-compatibility must in fact be considered when they are chosen as much as when they are at the end of their life.

Additionally, today’s materials are smart and encase an inner core of per- formance and function that could previously only be given by complex systems. Other key elements that have to be taken into account regarding environmental sustainability are the players involved in the design and ma- nufacturing processes, the origin of the resources and the location of the suppliers and manufacturers and the development of further production [Ceppa and Lerma, 2014].

One possible eco-sustainable approach towards the issue of e-waste is offe- red by Circular Economy [Geissdoerfer, Savaget, Bocken and Hultink, 2016] and the related System Design thinking [Barbero, 2016], suitable for dealing with industrial processes strategically, and aiming at recovery precious second life materials to new applications, both into the same productive chain, or to new ones. With this approach, thousands of electronic applian- ces (such as audio-visual components, televisions, VCRs, stereo equipment, mobile phones, other handheld devices, and computer components contain valuable elements and substances suitable for reclamation, including lead, silver, copper, and gold) are dismantled, and their materials are divided in order to be conveyed to new productive chains, new productive systems and new proactive industries. Nevertheless this procedure still doesn’t avoid critical issues. As an example, this process entails social, environmen- tal and legal questions, such as those generated by the uncontrolled move- ment of e-waste to countries where cheap labour and primitive approaches to recycling have resulted in health risks to local residents exposed to the release of toxins continues to an issue of concern [Ottaviani, 2018].

This investigation presents a panoramic overview, as well as the specificpoint of view of a material library on the topic. The aim will be showing the most recent data about the global amount of e-waste production, analy- sing the potentialities of innovation in terms of sustainable production andCircular Economy applied to the new application fields of these innovative- or renewed – materials in the Italian context; and showing how a mate- rial library can be valid support for the already existing SMEs, companies and designers in boosting this virtuous process. On the other hand, the most critical consequences of e-waste recovery are discussed and analy- sed, supported also by several case studies taken from the world of design and craftsmanship, dedicated to highlight this complex issue, showing how eco-sustainable design strategies can really trigger virtuous mechanisms of economic development.


Allione, C., De Giorgi, C., Lerma, B. & Petruccelli, L. (2012). From ecodesign products guide- lines to materials guidelines for a sustainable product. Qualitative and quantitative mul-ticriteria environmental profile of a material. Energy 39, (Amsterdam: Elsevier) pp. 90-99.

Baldé, C. P., Forti, V., Gray, V., Kuehr, R. and Stegmann, P. (2015). E-waste statistics: Guide-lines on classifications, reporting and indicators. (Bonn: United Nations University).

El-Haggar, S. (2007). Sustainable Industrial Design and Waste Management. Crad-le-to-cradle for Sustainable Development. (San Diego: Elsevier Academic Press).

Lerma, B. (2014) Materials in sustainable design. Characteristics and potential of materials for low environmental impact design. In Towards conscious design. Research, environ-mental sustainability, local development. The Intra-regional Alcotra – EDEN EcoDesign Network project. Eds. C. Ceppa and B. Lerma (Turin: Umberto Allemandi) pp. 46-57.

Lindahl, P., Robèrt, K. and Broman, G. (2014) Strategic sustainability considerations in ma-terials management. Journal of Cleaner Production 64 (Amsterdam: Elsevier) pp. 98-103. Ferrara, M. (2004) Materiali e innovazioni nel design. Le microstorie (Rome: Gangemi Edi-tore) pp. 95.

Fornalczyk, A., Willner, J., Francuz, K., Cebulski, J. (2013) E-waste as a source of valuable metals. Archives of Materials Science and Engineering 63/2, pp. 87-92.

Ceppa, C., Lerma, B. (2014) Eco-sustainable production networks: from the choice of ze-ro-mile resources to new uses of outputs. In Towards conscious design. Research, envi-ronmental sustainability, local development. The Intra-regional Alcotra – EDEN EcoDe-sign Network project. Eds. C. Ceppa and B. Lerma (Turin: Umberto Allemandi) pp.84-95.

Geissdoerfer, M., Savaget, P., Bocken, N. M. P., Hultink, E. J. (2016) The Circular Economy – A new sustainability paradigm? Journal of Cleaner Production 143, pp. 757-768.

Barbero, S. (2016) Opportunities and challenges in teaching Systemic Design. The evo-lution of the Open Systems master courses at Politecnico di Torino. In Proceedings of the 6th International Forum of Design as a Process, Universitat Politècnica de València, Valencia, pp. 57-66.

Ottaviani, J. (2018) E-waste republic. In Internazionale, https://www.internazionale.it/ webdoc/ewaste-republic/ (accessed on 10th May 2018).

Vezzoli C., Manzini, E. (2007). Design per la Sostenibilità Ambientale. Patronised United Nation Decade Education for Sustainable Development (Bologna: Zanichelli).

Systemic Design in Food Security and Resilience : Building A Holon

Darzentas John 1, Darzentas Jenny 1, De Bruin Annemarieke 2, Power Maddy 2, Prado Patricia 2, Carmien Stefan 2, Hobbs Emilie 2
1, University of the Aegean
2, University of York

food security
food system

The situation of concern in this paper is that of Food Security. In a previous paper [Darzentas et al., 2017], the I KNOW FOOD (IKF) project and its com- position and objectives were introduced. As its name suggests, an overall aim is to integrate knowledge about food systems. Also, the project examinesthese systems in the light of food system resilience. The project defines foodsystem resilience as “the ability to learn, adapt and transform to cope with external and internal stresses and shocks in order to maintain stable levels of nutritious food supply”1.

The word ‘systems’ is used in food studies very frequently, as the food re- search literature recognises the interconnectivity of various elements andtalks about “the food system”, but it is easier to find research that deals withparts of systems independently. This has been changing, with more rese-archers trying to find ways to study food systems more holistically. Suchresearch (Ericksen, 2008; Bland and Bell, 2017; Horton, 2017) on food secu- rity is working to draw in sources of multiple interactions, to identify key processes, drivers, multiple feedbacks and outcomes. This then leads to some thought-provoking perspectives on how components are interlinked and could potentially lead to “actionable improvements”. This wider, more holi- stic, agenda for food security research may include many different factorsnot apparently directly influencing food security, such as over-consump- tion of ‘bad’ food and obesity, to be studied along with more traditional foci such as increasing food production and improving food value chains. The IKF project belongs to this newer tradition of taking a wider, more holistic, perspective, and has a main objective to integrate many different types of knowledge about food.

Our approach is grounded in Systems Thinking and Design to capture, learn about and develop deep and shared understandings of the problem space of Food Security. Such understandings are necessary to move towards appro- priate and robust design interventions. An initial step in this approach is to build a holon (Darzentas et al., 2017). We adopt the meaning of the Greek word ‘ὅλον’ which means ‘whole’ or ‘everything’, in relation to the problem space. The holon is not a systemic view of a complex problem, in our case that of food security. It consists of emerging stakeholders’ issues with the components and links considered relevant. To build a holon, design methods such as those informed by ethnographic as well as participatory activitiescan be used. In this process, a holon may be refined many times, as the lear- ning and understandings deepen. The holon when ‘translated’ into a syste- mic language makes use of known tenets and principles of systems thinking. In this way, notions such as resilience can be examined using the Holon to situate them in the problem space.

IKF proposes the use of the lens of resilience to examine food security. Resi- lience has been conceptualised in at least three ways; as absorbing shocks, as preventing shocks, or as adapting to shocks whether in socio-ecological sy- stems (Béné et al., 2016) or socio-technical systems (Taysom and Crilly, 2017), and in some cases more than one of these forms of resilience are apparent.For instance, an aid agency may provide first aid to help absorb the shockfrom an emergency, but also try to put in place preventive measures to resist unwanted changes, or even a development project to transform the current food production/consumption processes so that they are not vulnerable in the future to the type of shock caused by the emergency. Furthermore, de- spite the pervasiveness of the term resilience, it is generally considered, in current discourse, as a ‘good thing’. But resistance to change can mean that undesirable states of systems remain (e.g. resistance to changing known ‘bad’ dietary habits). Finally, there is the problem to understand what impacts creating resilience in one part of the system may have on other parts of a system.

This paper presents ongoing work initially bringing researchers togetherinto a shared space to develop understandings of the IKF objectives. A first step was to move from the ‘given’ system definitions (e.g. ‘supply chain sy-stem’, ‘healthcare system’, as well as ‘stock’ definitions of actors and roles (e.g.farmer produces food) to develop fresh understandings and reveal emergent properties. Although these researchers are just one group amongst the sta- keholders engaged in IKF project, they are each working in partnership with the main groups of stakeholders. For example, researchers working with food producers meet with farmers’ groups whose motivation is exchange of information between themselves, and the researchers engage in social lear- ning to immerse themselves in their world. In doing so, they bring a richer understanding of the motivations and values, the limitations and outside constraints that come into play in the farmers’ spheres of activity. Bringing these richer understandings to the building of a holon allows for differen- tiated emphases from the more commonly accepted ‘food systems’ actors allowing possible re-orientations.

Already, some very promising preliminary observations emerged that de- monstrate the usefulness of the systemic design approach, for the groun- ding of resilience in the project:

• A description of the situation of concern elaborated during the workshopsshows interesting differentiations when contrasted with the official defini- tion of Food Insecurity from the Food Alliance Organisation. Their careful-ly crafted definition, which is periodically reviewed, states that Food Secu- rity is:

“A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, socialand economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meetstheir dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life (FAO-2001)”

In contrast, the workshop elaboration paid attention to human self-suffi- ciency, introducing the concepts of means, agency and knowledge as ne- cessary to access food, in contrast to the ‘physical social and economic’ ofthe official definition. It qualifies food as being ethical, as well as nutritious, and affordable, and finally, they introduced the notions of care for the envi- ronment as well as the cultural acceptability of food, that do not exist in theFAO definition. Their final elaboration was:

“Enabling people to have the means, agency and knowledge to access ethical, adequate, nutritious, affordable, culturally and environmentally acceptable food”

• Acknowledgement of the influential role played by the stakeholder grouptermed ‘communicators’. This group includes people such as food journalists. Although the academic world recognises the importance of communicators, with whole journals dedicated to research, (e.g. the Journal of Environmen- tal Communication), within the food security literature they do not seem to feature as a stakeholder group. Yet, evidence of their activity abounds,whether it is exerting influence on consumers via advertising; or their keyrole in informing and educating consumers about safe and nutritious foodpractices; or as conduits to filter and popularise scientific results to consu- mers with practical recommendations regarding dietary information. Of course, as everywhere, the role of information and communication as apowerful and influential tool is well recognised, but when dispersed intomakers and writers of documentaries, newspaper articles, and commissio- ned reports, they are not easily recognisable as stakeholder group.

• The importance of the 3rd Sector: those with ‘on-the-ground’ knowledge, are those who can be said to be actively engaged in implementing resilience(whether trying to absorb shocks carrying out first aid in emergencies, orwhether engaged, perhaps after a disaster, in trying to build resistance or to transform).

• The nature of the potential of stakeholders. Notwithstanding the many inequalities that are present, each stakeholder appears to have some mecha-nisms, to influence, affect, change, or even disrupt flows of material and of information within the holon. Further refinement may help to understandthe nature of this potential.

The richness of a holon such as the one in Figure 1 offers an opportunity to identify some of the effects that an external stress/shock, for instance, mi- ght have within the captured holon. This may also then allow for some use- ful speculation on the type of resilience required to face up to those stresses. Of course, it must be said again that any capturing and understanding of theproblem space is evolving iteratively, so that the holon may be refined againand again.

By stressing or ‘prodding’ the system, it is possible to see where the potential ‘shockwaves’ hit. For example, in Figure 2 above, the awareness campaign aimed at consumers, may also affect others, such as retailers, and this may have a knock-on effect to the link between retailers and producers. The ho- lons allow for creating understandings of what types of resilience are needed by the various stakeholders both to resist being affected by the shockwaves, or to have mechanisms in place to adapt to the shockwave.
Identifying such pathways allows for understanding the possible forms that resilience, if required, could take. Translating into systems language provi- des a platform to move towards creating interventions where tried and te- sted design methods can be used. Again, it is emphasised that a very impor-tant benefit of the systemic design approach is that, because of the way the‘paths’ to emerging subsystems are generated, the stakeholders involved in each one of those, can ‘meet’ again, when necessary, back at the ‘system’ (or translated holon), or even at the holon itself. That may be necessary because of the iterative nature of the evolving understanding and learning, as well as the dynamic nature of systems’ characteristics such as borders and envi- ronment which change continuously.

Thus, the holon offers stakeholders and designers a common platform of re-ference when needed to clarify and redefine evolving issues. Our work hasshown that building a holon can be an important part of the process to reachnot only deeper understandings of the problem space, but also to refine tho- se understandings, to be able to illuminate them with the lens of systemic design, and to speculate on what design interventions towards what kinds of resilience within the system can be designed so as to minimise disrup- tions, and improve the nature of esistance where required.


Béné, C., Headey,D., Haddad, L. & von Grebner, K. (2016) Is resilience a useful concept in the context of food security and nutrition programmes? Some conceptual and practical considerations Food Security 8:123–138

Bland, W.L. & M. M. Bell (2007) A Holon approach to agroecology International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability 5(4) 284-294

Darzentas, J. Petrie, H. & Darzentas, J.S. (2017) Employing Systems Thinking Approaches and the Service Design paradigm as tools to support collaboration across a multi-stakehol-der initiative: the responsible food consumption exemplar Relating Systems Thinking and Design (RSD6 working paper) www.systemic-design.net

Ericksen, P. (2008) Conceptualizing food systems for global environmental change resear-ch Global Environmental Change 18(1), 234-245

Horton, P., Banwart, S.A., Brockington, D., Brown, G.W., Bruce, R., Cameron, D., Hold-sworth, M., Lenny Koh, S.C., Ton, J. & Jackson, P. (2017) An agenda for integrated sy-stem-wide interdisciplinary agri-food research Food Security 9:195–210

Taysom, E. Crilly, N. (2017) Resilience in Sociotechnical Systems: The Perspectives of Mul-tiple Stakeholders, She Ji: The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation, (3) 3, 165-182

Building the fashion’s future. How to turn textiles’ wastes into ecological building products

Giordano Roberto, Montacchini Elena, Tedesco Silvia
Politecnico di Torino

Recycling and reusing textile wastes
Ecological building products
Textile recycling scenarios

The textile is play a crucial role in the third economic sector in several Euro- pean Countries. The fashion industry is considered as a benchmark of excel- lence in Italy and Italian fashion revenues are remarkable (Crivelli, 2017). But at the same time the textile system is extremely polluting and wasteful (Ellen Macarthur foundation, 2017). A large amounts of non-renewable resources are extracted to produce textiles; dioxide carbon emissions are realised in several stages over the textile’s life cycle; special wastes are landfilled (Wicker, 2016) both in upstream process (afterwards the production and the delivering) as well as in downstream process (once the textile is used). Less of 1% of materials used to produce clothes becomes part of a closed-loop recycling and less of 2% are recycled in other industrial activities. This is likely due to the currently manufacturing system that operates trough an almost linear way (Ellen Macarthur foundation, 2017).

Although the framework highlighted some good practices have been alrea- dy carried out, showing how it possible use textile wastes in several sectors, including the building one. Building sector is only apparently far away from the fashion industry. A well known example of open loop recycling of fa- shion wastes used in construction is the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. The thermal insulation materials have been made with over 200.000 pairs of discarded jeans.
Transforming the textile industry according to Systemic Design principles is therefore possible, proposing a well known but fundamentally change: wastes and by-products due their properties might be assumed as inputs of new production systems. Such methodological approach makes it possible to meet the circular economy goals set out in current European Directive (European Parliament, 2018).

Based on these premises a research project titled EDILTEX (Carbonaro C. et al, 2018) – Innovation for reusing in textile companies – was carried out. The project was aimed at meeting needs to reducing environmental impacts of Small Medium Enterprises, in two textile and fashion districts (Tuscany and Lombardy). DAD’s research team of Politecnico di Torino was partner of the project dealing with some aspects related to reuse and recycling processes. The research was developed with the economic support of Fondimpresa in- ter-professional fund. Commitment and collaboration were implementedsharing knowledge, analysing the production systems and defining diffe- rent waste disposal opportunities.
Bearing in mind the Systemic design objectives the research was split-up into stages: Need findings; Ideation and Prototyping; Monitoring; and newBusiness Strategy.

Needs were pursued through environmental audits in order to point out themost important manufacturing findings and in order to characterise the wastes proprieties and how wastes could be reused and recycled (see figure 1).Matching the information collected in the ideation stage three scenarioswere outlined. The first scenario was focused to enhancing textile wastesas Secondary Raw Materials (SRM) and/or by-products in existing recycling companies. Some opportunities were investigated (i.e. the manufacturing of building insulations materials for acoustic purposes) according to SRM features.

The second scenario was addressed to enhancing the textile wastes in on-line markets (market places). Within such the reuse or recycling chances are not predetermined. They depend on the supply-demand balance.
Finally, the third scenario was aimed at developing new building mate- rials, basically through two activities trough a material sorting process and afterward trough a concept design.
The material sorting and concept have highlighted some physical properties such as: density; thermal conductivity; sound absorption coefficient. Onthe basis of the performances provided by the wastes further activities addressed to prototyping were planned. Two experiments were developed and some interesting achievements concerning the activities carried out were reached.

Some textile wastes (artificial fibres) were used as additive in the manufacturing of clay based plaster. Fabrics were shredded and dosed in defined quantity in the mix design of a selected number of samples featured with different densities. The research outlooks to improve the tensile strength and the alkali resistance. The shredded fabrics should absorb the tension on ceilings and walls and they should prevent cracks in the plaster.
Some polyester wadding wastes have been tested in order to assess their acoustic insulation potential. The wadding becomes the inner part of acou- stic screen enables to improve the reverberation in rooms. The external surface is featured with leather or textile surpluses. Particularly leather isan easy maintaining material and overall it has self fire extinguishing cha- racteristics. The concept and the prototyping were conceived as a building furniture shaped as a flat pillow sewed at the edges; the reuse of different trimmings allow to get a unique pattern in term of size and colour.

Monitoring is ongoing (will end by the second semester of 2019). The first tests carried out show that some requirements – normally taken into account in plasters and insulation panels – were met, demonstrating the potentiality to generate a zero wastes system and promoting symbiotic processes between only apparently disparate industrial sectors.
Finally, the business strategy definition has been focusing on the characteri-zation of the value proposition as well as on the fine tuning of the recyclingand reusing system. The transition from a linear production process to a circular one entails the implementation of current wastes collection and processing systems. Designing the supply chain is crucial part of the business strategy shared with the Small Medium Enterprises; Thus their wastes can be effectively exploited as secondary raw materials in an other manufacturing systems.

On the whole the outcomes show that a new perspective in textile production is actionable. It is based on the principles of circular economy and in accordance to a systemic approach matching together sectors such as fashion and building. Despite it is required to managing properly situations of complexity and uncertainty in which there are no simple answers and lot of efforts are still necessary a systemic addition is however possible: building and fashion makes “building the fashion future”.


Crivelli G., Textile and fashion industry generates half of Italy’s trade surplus, Il Sole 24 ore digital edition, May 2017.

Ellen Macarthur foundation, A new textiles economy. Redesign fashion’s future, Decem-ber 2017.

Wicker A., Fast fashion is creating an environmental crisis, Newsweek, September 2016

Circular Fibres Initiative analysis, in: Ellen Macarthur foundation, A new textiles eco-nomy. Redesign fashion’s future, December 2017.

Directive (EU) 2018/851 of the European Parliament and of the council of 30 May 2018 amending Directive 2008/98/EC on waste.

Carbonaro C., Giordano R., Montacchini E., Muñ oz M., Tedesco S., EDILTEX; new buil-ding materials from textile wastes. An experience of industrial symbiosis practices, in: 24th International Sustainable Development Research Society Conference action for a sustainable world: from theory to practice. Messina, June 2018.


Click here to download the working paper

Business experiments for circular urban food systems 

Konietzko Jan, Bocken Nancy, Hultink Erik Jan
Delft University of Technology

Circular economy
Business experiments
Urban food systems

The food sector causes around 30% of global life cycle environmental impacts, mostly due to dairy and meat production and consumption. These impacts can be reduced through systemic innovation in how people relate to food, and consequently how and what they choose to eat (Tukker et al. 2011). New businesses are emerging that address sustainable food challenges, to reduce waste, water, energy use, and carbon emissions associated with food. 

‘The New Farm’ is a recently established food innovation hub in the city of The Hague that has hosted a number of these emerging businesses. Examples include: Urban Farmers, a large aquaponics farm for circular vegetable and fish production; Haagse Zwam, which uses waste from coffee grounds to grow oyster mushrooms; UpTown Greens, which provides vertical farm units to restaurants. The New Farm is located in a low-income district and seeks to involve the local neighborhood as a focus use case. The hub is loca- ted in an old, refurbished industrial building. At the point of writing, it is at the beginning of its operations, with last constructions to create space for multiple restaurants to settle in the ground floor of the building. We seek to answer the following question: How can a local innovation hub serve to engage organisations in joint business experiments to design circular urban food systems? 

This question is based on two insights from the field of sustainable inno- vation. First, any innovation activity for sustainability needs to look at multiple levels (e.g. products, business models and systems), with special attention to systemic levels (Ceschin and Gaziulusoy 2016). This is because sustainability problems can only be addressed through the connections and interactions between, for example, people, organisations, products and ser- vices (Meadows 1997; Boulton et al. 2015). The circular economy provides a useful narrative for such systemic innovation (Blomsma and Brennan 2017). It suggests that organisations jointly minimise a system’s resource inputs, as well as its waste and emission outputs. This can be done by narrowing (use less), slowing (use longer) and closing (use again) resource loops (Geissdoerfer et al. 2017). Second, while a lot research has been about ‘what’ is necessary (e.g. minimise negative environmental impacts), and ‘why’ (e.g. safeguarding welfare for coming generations), less is known about ‘how’ effective change can be created (Zollo et al. 2013). Conducting business experiments has been promoted as an actionable process for ‘how’ this can be done for circular economy (Bocken et al. 2016; Bocken et al. 2018). It works as follows: come up with new ideas, select the ‘best’ idea, and then get out of the building as quickly as possible to test critical assumptions about its desirability, viability and fea- sibility at the lowest possible cost and the least amount of time. Key here is to rapidly go through ‘build-measure- learn’ cycles to learn whether an idea works or not, and iterate or pivot after each cycle (Ries 2011; Osterwalder et al. 2014). 

Conducting business experiments on a systems level requires a few additio- nal considerations. First, they require open project structures and time to de- velop a shared vision among involved people and organisations (Konietzko et al. 2018). Second, they ideally focus on one location, one use case and one initial customer, while they also test the adaptability of value propositions to other contexts (e.g. other customers, locations, and use cases) (ibid.). 

The hub is a purposed case that can enable systemic and collaborative bu- siness experiments. It focuses on one location and one use case. However, the tenants in the hub have not yet established a project structure for joint experiments or a shared vision. This is the starting point for our research. We use four steps to explore the question: 1) 10 interviews with tenants and partners, 2) informal get-togethers between tenants, 3) business experiment design, 4) business experiment sprints with tenants. First interviews have revealed individual interests and the willingness for joint action. First infor- mal get-togethers have helped identify common interests. Going forward, we seek to integrate this with a method for workshops to create a shared vision and conduct business experiments together with the tenants to an- swer the question. 


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Natural fibers insulation panels: an adaptive production

Savio Lorenzo, Thiebat Francesca, Bosia Daniela, Pennacchio Roberto, Manni Valentino
Politecnico di Torino

Sheep wool
Insulation panels
Circular economy
Textile fibers

The research team recently developed an innovative system with low environmental impact for the production of semi-rigid panels for thermal and acoustic insulation, obtained from recycled sheep’s wool, from Piemonte region (Cartonlana insulation panel). Starting from the previous work, a new semi-rigid panel has been produced, combining sheep wool with hemp te- chnical fibers (Fitness insulation panel). The researches activities have been developed by a multidisciplinary group, which includes a textile company, Davifil (owner of the Cartonlana patent), the Biella CNR ISMAC (specialized in macromolecules and the textile fibres), the Department of Architecture and Design – Politecnico di Torino (expert in low-environmental-impact building components), and Assocanapa, which promotes the cultivation and valorisation of hemp. 

Both the sheep wool and the hemp used for the insulation panel production derive from agri-food systems and are wastes from already existing pro- duction chains. Wool comes from Piemonte region sheep breeding; it cannot be used in textile industry, due to its dark color and/or poor quality: fibers are too thick, and irregular length also. Sheep wool is usually washed and dried, but still contains plant debris trapped amongst fibers. As for hemp, treatments on the raw wool are reduced to a minimum, in order to minimize the energy consumption for the production of the panels. 

Cartonlana and fitness 

The panels have two main innovative features: unlike the already existing hemp and wool insulation mats, they are semi-rigid products and they has a low environmental impact, as shown by the Life Cycle Assessment. Their stiffness comes from the production process, where the keratin of wool fi- bers works as a binding matrix and constitutes a rigid structure. The panels have been tested to measure their thermal and acoustic absorption, both in the laboratory and in real use conditions, demonstrating excellent perfor- mance, in line with the natural products currently on the market. In parti- cular, the laboratory measurements showed a thermal conductivity of 0,041 W/mK for Cartonlana and 0,040 W/mK for Fitness. As for the sound ab- sorption coefficient, Fitness panels have a better performance (aw=0,75 MH compared to aw=0,55 MH of Cartonlana). 

Starting from that experiences, a further phase of experimentation of the production process of insulating materials is being implemented, in order to improve the degree of adaptability to the real availability of wasted natu- ral fibers from local agri-food systems. The objective is to create and test an “open recipe” for insulation panels production, able to keep as low as possible the environmental impact, thanks to the adaptive use of natural fibers avai- lable in a specific context and time. 

New panels, as those already tested by the research group, consist of two main components:
– a “matrix” based on sheep’s wool chemically treated according to a pro- cess patented by the research group capable of constituting the rigid keratin structure of the insulating panel; 

– a “charge”, made up of waste materials and by-products of textile and agri-food chains; natural fibers that are not used on the market, but also ar- tificial waste materials. 

In the “open recipe” the binding matrix (sheep wool) is mixed with different quantities and proportions of the “charge”, fixing the appropriate rules and variables to keep the thermal and acoustic performances suitable for the use in building sector as insulations. 

The “charge”, a selection based on “low environmental impact” requirements 

With the aim of keeping the environmental impact related to the pro- duction of the panels low and with a view to circular economy, it has been suggested the use, as “charge” selected with the intent to explore the possi- bility of obtaining panels with different performances. 

The contribution presents the methodology adopted for the research in pro- gress, the “open” Technology Assessment to be adopted for the production of the panels. 

For the “charges” selections, to be tested in the new thermal-acoustic insu- lation panels, the research group defined some principles, in order to keep as low as possible the environmental impact of the insulation panel. The selection was oriented to: 

– wasted materials, from already existing production chains in the reference territory, where sheep wool is available but currently discarded;
– materials without any others specific uses;
– materials available in sufficient quantities in the reference area, without any economic value for producers; 

– natural materials, in order to facilitate the end-of-life disposal, assuming, ultimately, a thermo- valorization as biomass scenario;
– preferably fibrous materials, or however easily aggregable with wool fi- bers, in order to produce panels with an homogeneous composition. 

Considering these requirements, the research group selected the following materials as possible alternatives: corn bracts, dried bean plant – referring to the Piedmont region territory – and almonds shells – referring to Puglia region. Therefore a production-chain study and an availability scenario, in parallel to the production of panel specimens, have been developed. 

Corn bracts can be considered a by-product of corn cultivation harvesting and are single sheath leaves, protecting the corn female inflorescence, an ear that grows sideways to the stem, at the height of the 6-7th node below the male inflorescence (Università di Sassari, Dipartimento di Agraria). Corn plants generally present a single ear 10 – 20 long, but occasionally can rea- ch 42 cm longness, and 3– 5 cm large (Assomais), carrying about 1000 dry one-seeded fruit, the caryopsis, each. The female inflorescence is supported by a peduncle generating the bracts, generally in number of 5-6 each flower and representing about 7% by weight of a mature whole corn plant. 

Corn is highly widespread in North Italy, while Piedmont is one of the four regions with the highest corn production in Italy, with a production area of about 148,855 ha (ISTAT 2016) and a 1,441.5 thousands tons of crop yield, despite suffering a sensible decrease of cultivation area of about 33%, after 2014. In Italy, corn harvesting happens in September-October, generally using a combine harvester machine. A square meter corn plantation area is likely to make about 6-8 corn ears, about 30 – 48 bracts, 40 – 65 t/ha of chopped plant, in north Italy. As a corn plantation by-product, bracts have quite no use, excepting, together with other corn residues, as biomass and boilers fuel. Moreover the large widespread on the regional area, its fibrous nature and low protein content, make it a potentially interesting product to be tested as a “charge” for the panels recipe. 

Almond is a deciduous tree of medium height (from 5 to 7 metres in its adul- thood) and slow rate of growth but very long-lived. It generally goes into production around the age of 5 and achieves maximum productivity no ear- lier than 20 years of age. It well tolerates drought and high temperatures in summer and adapts to dry and poor soils. Its fruit is an ovoid and elon- gated drupe, with a fleshy, light green coloured and hairy (sometimes also glabrous) exocarp (mallo), which detaches when ripe. The endocarp (shell) is woody, whose consistency can be hard or brittle. 

Inside the shell are contained seeds (almonds) which are utilized mainly by the confectionery industry and, partly, consumed as dried fruits. The harvesting period goes from the end of August to the end of September, de- pending on pedoclimatic conditions and cultivar, when the hull is comple- tely open and almost detached from the shell. Currently, more than 93% of national production comes from two regions: Sicily (60%) and Puglia (33%). The total amount of the national production of shell fruits is about 79,600 tons (source Istat, year 2017). Given a yield of 25-30%, remain about 55,000- 60,000 tons of non-edible parts that are merely used in cosmetic and soap industry or become fuel that could be employed, instead, as “charge” for ma- king panels. 

The opportunity of using the dried bean plant comes from the great availa- bility of that material in the Piedmont region, where 23% of the beans culti- vated area in Italy is concentrated (ISTAT 2010). In particular, the province of Cuneo can be considered the most suitable area for designing panels be- cause both sheep wool and dried bean plants are widely available. In that territory the beans production is also identified by the IGP denomination “Fagiolo di Cuneo” (Protected Geographical Identification). Moreover, refer- ring to the IGP denomination, another research group from Department of Architecture and Design has recently developed a production-chain and valorisation scenario, thanks to the project EN.FA.SI.2, funded by Piedmont Region. 

The beans are harvested by hand or through threshing in different phases during the autumn season. In the threshing-harvest, the thresher collects the beans, leaving the rest of the plant (stem, leaves pods) in the field, where it completes its drying process. The plant is rarely harvested, more often it is turned in the field, with the risk of soil contamination by parasites. In few cases is used as cattle litter (with lower yield than straw) or burned as biomass to produce energy. The research group propose to use the entire dry plant for the production of the panels as aggregate charge from sheep’s wool. The production of the sheep wool and dried bean plant panel speci- men gave a positive result, highlighting, however, some difficulties in sepa- rating the dried plant fibres. 


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Repair = care : system stories from Norway and Ghana 

Van der Velden Maja, Geirbo Hanne Cecilie
University of Oslo

Design for reparability
System stories
System mapping

Sustainable production and consumption is one of the seventeen Sustai- nable Development Goals (SDGs) (United Nations, 2015). The mobile phone is an important example of unsustainable production and consumption. There are widespread social and environmental impacts in its life cycle (van der Velden & Taylor, 2017) and the production and consumption of mobile pho- nes continues to increase, also in countries with a highly saturated market. In 2017, 1.47 billion mobile phone units were shipped worldwide and that number is expected to reach 1.7 billion units in 2020 (Statista, 2018). 

Repair is one of the activities that disrupt the unsustainable consumption of mobile phones. Repair extends the lifespan of a product, which slows down unsustainable product life cycles. Through stories of the repair of mobile phones, from Norway and Ghana, we are able draw a global system of mo- bile phone production and consumption, which can offer insight for a more sustainable mobile phone life cycle. 

The number of places where one can repair shoes, clothes, electronics, etc., after the warranty period has expired, has decreased dramatically in high- income countries such as Norway. Also when one brings a faulty item back during the warranty period, the item is most often not repaired, but replaced. As a result of increased awareness of the impact of unsustainable consumption, several community-based repair initiatives have spring up in high-income countries, such as the Restart Project in the UK (The Restart Project, 2018) and Repair Café in the Netherlands (Repair Café, 2018), both with affiliates around the world. The Restart project focuses on the repair of electronics. Restarters Norway, which is one of their affiliates, organises so-called repair parties for electronics (Restarters Norway, 2018). Repair Cafés offer all kinds of repairs, based on the availability of skills among their volunteers. Electronics, bicycles, and clothes are some of the most popular items. 

Community repair is based on voluntary participation of repairers, who come together in a local setting, such as a community centre or library, to repair whatever people bring in. The meetings are organised by and for the local community. Community repair is often motivated by sustainable con- sumption or the unavailability or unaffordability of formal repair, but also the culture and joy of repair plays a central role. 

In low-income countries, repair has always been an important household activity as well as economic activity. Our fieldwork on informal mobile pho- ne repair in Ghana shows that repair is a collective activity; colleagues, ma- ster repairers, and apprentices work together, sharing tools and expertise. 

Rather than comparing informal repair activities in Norway and Ghana, we propose to tell system stories of mobile phone repair in both countries. Sy- stem stories have the capacity to shift the focus from parts of the system to the whole system (Stroh, 2015). They are part of what Ison calls a systemic inquiry, “a particular means of facilitating movement towards social lear- ning (understood as concerted action by multiple stakeholders in situations of complexity and uncertainty)” (2010, p. 244). 

We understand repair as a “doings of care” (de la Bellacasa, 2011). Our repair stories focus on the material aspects of the mobile phone. We follow the mo- bile phones and its spare parts to the places where they are repaired and we focus on the repair process itself, by looking at the tools and resources (manuals, spare parts) used for repair. Using system mapping (Stroh, 2015), we can draw global flows of materials as well as the structures that regulate these flows, such as national, EU, and international regulation, and consu- mer practices. 

System stories and system mapping are important tools in addressing com- plex problems, such as those of addressed by the SDGs. By focusing on re- pair, an activity disrupting the business as usual of unsustainable cycles of production and consumption, we are able to shift the focus towards the system as whole. By mapping global flows of materials, we are able to iden- tify what is “systemically desirable” (P. B. Checkland, 1999; P. Checkland & Winter, 2006) in terms of possible actions that will strengthen repair as an intervention in unsustainable production and consumption. We identify product design for reparability, the free and affordable availability of quali- ty spare parts, and zero value-added taxes on repair and spare parts as desi- rable actions for caring about mobile phones and other things. 


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