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Creating a Circular Economy

August 1, 2014

Designers Shadow Staff in London Waste Sites to Inform Sustainable Design and Aid Circular Economy

Four-day residency in recycling and reuse centres helped designers understand their role in creating a circular economy

Circular Economy
Circular Economy

Put a team of designers into different waste facilities. Get them to observe how products and materials flow through those systems – not just from a processing perspective, but from a behavioural and communications perspective. Could our waste be handled or managed in a better way? How do people relate to the products they are throwing away? What design faults might be at play here?

This was the brief given to four designers in July as a part of a new project being led by The Great Recovery – a creative platform building new networks to investigate some of the disconnects and innovation gaps preventing design-led circular economy solutions.

As much of the circular economy links to product redesign along with system and service redesign, designers have a pivotal role. Allowing them to experience first hand the operational challenges relating to waste could help foster more sustainable design.

Ann Baker from Camden council, one of the waste managers involved in the trial, says the experience has altered her perception of waste. She is now more considerate of a product’s lifecycle journey and feels there is a pressing need for more dialogue between designers and waste management companies to understand how different materials can be dealt with more effectively at their end-of-life.

“If the design of a product is done with the full lifecycle in mind then that could have a huge impact on the ability to repair it, or how it can be recycled if it is no longer fit for use. It might also make you question whether you need that product at all,” she reflects.

The Great Recovery project is now looking to scale up this work and will launch a series of in-depth design residencies in September, targeting either sector-specific or material-specific waste streams. This will also include a “design up” phase where the design team will use their findings to create new design briefs that better account for a product’s user journey and its end-of-life. The initiative may well end up creating another platform for dialogue by bringing manufacturers into the mix who can help put those concepts to the test in a real production environment.

Reused from http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/sustainable-designers-london-waste-sites