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Visit recyclers to help design out waste, says key design expert

Designers of products used throughout our society have been urged to work with those involved in the life cycle of the materials to help the drive towards a circular economy.

Chris Sherwin, head of sustainability at designers Seymourpowell told the Product Design + Innovation Conference in London how his team had been researching the design of products with refills and their recycling.

“It has been absolutely a revelation to go and visit a plastic recycler and seeing what happens with the stuff that we design, months or years after what we have produced [is thrown away].

“And then, seeing how we can feed what we have learnt back into the design is a revelation and, in a couple of cases, has forced us to change our designs.”

Ben Peace

Ben Peace, consultant at C-Tech Innovation and knowledge transfer manager at the Environmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network (ESKTN), left, said that there were many different strategies for making design circular or to produce less waste.

But he added that the correct approach depended on the product, for example making it lighter or lengthening its life.

He also said that collaboration was needed between a whole range of different disciplines to achieve a circular economy: “We need to be working as designers, with people right across the board including those digging materials out of the ground, processing them, the chemists, the materials scientists who understand how best to use materials for a function in a product, people like physicists, engineers, and end-of life-specialists.”

He added: “This is a big part of what we (ESKTN) have been doing to help the Technology Strategy Board in their design competition for a circular economy.” The Knowledge Transfer Network has 10,000 members from different disciplines.

Also on the panel were Dee Cooper, former product & services director at Virgin Atlantic Airways, and Paul Reeves, Senior Technology Manager, Dassault-SolidWorks R&D.

  • MRW has reported that WRAP and Labour have both recently called for business to design out waste.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Packaging designers, good idea to see the problems recyclers face to separate different materials, paper labels on jars and cans for instance, both cans (look at beer tins) and jars or anything else for that matter can now be printed on directly. Why do suppliers use selotape & staples on cardboard cartons when paper tape can be used? that is just a couple of thoughts. There are literally thousands of everyday products that could use married materials.

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