Throwaway culture. The EU approach, and our ideas for designers.

Design

We live in a society that loves the disposable, the cheaper it is, the more we throw away. Got a pluck in your Primani jeans? Throw them away, not used it in a while? Throw it away, old tech? Throw it away – you get the picture.

The average person in the UK throws away around 400kg of waste each year; 7 times their body weight.

The EU Plan

In March 2020 the EU unveiled the Circular economy plan 2.0, a fresh attempt at changing the way consumers view everyday items. The plan outlines a series of objectives, the most notable being halving municipal waste by 2030.

Further policy, due for release in 2021 outlines how the EU plan to empower consumers, providing information and “establishing a right to repair”, allowing consumers the ability to repair and modify their own devices, where otherwise the manufacturer of such devices require the consumer to use only their offered services.

The commission also proposes to provide tools to businesses that will indicate the environmental footprint of their product, leading to consumers being more aware of the impact of their purchases.

All the above are great ideas to positively impact the throwaway culture, but what can we do as designers and manufacturers to positively impact the lives of future generations?

Justin Wilkes, executive director of ECOS, an environmental organisation dedicated to standardisation states that “80% of environmental challenges originate at the design phase”, this puts designers in the driving seat to change the course of the current culture.

Here are a few ideas:

  • Utilise the “Cradle to Cradle” approach, popularised by McDonough and Braungart, how can your product transition into a new life when its current use ends?
  • Design for disassembly, utilise useful components that can be reused once the overall product has come to the end of its useful life. The key here is making the components simple and easy to remove, encouraging the consumer to do this before they consider throwing the whole item away.
  • Think like Lotus – add lightness. This might not reduce the chance of the item being thrown but reduces the impact of doing so. Weight directly contributes to the energy required to acquire materials, the resources used, and to transport the product.
  • Lengthen the life. I wear the same pair of Doc Martins for DIY as my dad wore at uni, more years ago than he would care to mention. In a tenth of the timeframe, my wife has thrown out more pairs of poorly designed shoes than I’ve had hot dinners. Make your product last even twice as long as ‘the next best’ and you’ll be making a huge impact.
  • Make design choices that will reduce consumption. This does not look at designing products that will be used less, more so use less. Reduce the raw materials in your products and where you cannot reduce, utilise more sustainable materials.

What are your thoughts on the ideas above? Let us know what we’ve missed! Contact us here

At Blueprint Product Solutions, every project we work on has a defined future, we ensure there is a market for our products by analysing the user’s requirements and researching the demand. Once we know there is a need, we start on the design. Every product we design is scrutinised to ensure it best fits the consumer, to ensure there is the minimum environmental impact, and to maximise its useful life.

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