There is potential to explore new opportunities for supporting circulation of products by considering people’s consumption process and the variety of options and activities related to different paths of consumption. The illustrated consumption cycle below highlights a number of circular paths of consumption as alternatives to the traditional linear consumption process.
The consumption cycle divides the consumption process into the three main phases Obtainment, Use, and Clearance. The illustration deliberately excludes producers, providers, and other players, as they do not have to be involved in people’s consumption processes (even though they often are). Instead, different paths of obtaining, using, and clearing products, which can be carried out by a single person, but also jointly by a household or a larger collective, are in focus. The consumption cycle thus highlights alternative modes of consumption and provides an overview of the main options people have throughout the process, i.e. possible paths of consumption. The paths are grouped according to whether they influence people’s ownership or access to a product as this typically frames which paths that are possible to carry out and/or are desirable to consider.
The figure highlights people’s main paths but does not illustrate the consequences associated with particular paths. However, these are essential to understand as they influence how people prioritise and choose between paths. Hence, explorations of opportunities for supporting product circularity should not be based solely on people’s main options, but also on an understanding of what those options entail for people. As people’s consumption processes are linked to each other it is also essential to consider what transaction costs, such as time, effort, and money, that may be associated to the exchange of products between users in relation to particular paths.