Scraponomics Episode 132: Design for Recycling

May 12, 2016, 01:05 PM

“The purpose - where I start - is the idea of use. It is not recycling, it’s reuse.” — Issey Miyake, Japanese fashion designer

We’ve been giving tours at Friedland for quite awhile, but the students this season seemed different…in a good way.

We had more inquiries from students about working with us and doing potential internships than ever before. I think what clicked with them the most was when we talked about designing products for recycling. I’ve brought the concept up plenty of times, but it felt like the students this season really had a conviction for it. It’s like they’re really seeing how important the topic is.

Here’s what I mean by designing for recycling.

Sometimes people are taken aback when we say we don’t take everything for scrap recycling. You have to remember, we’re not the ones who manufacture the goods that people ultimately want to recycle, we’re just expected to process them after they’re no longer usable in their current form. Some things are easier to process than others.

So when we talk about designing for recycling, we mean tackling the is-this-recyclable issue from the beginning; during the design process before the product is made.

For example, #1, #2, and #4 plastics are far easier to process for recycling than other types. So if you work for a company that designs the packaging for headphones, it’s better to use a #1 or #2 plastic if possible, so it’s easier to recycle later on. Make sense?

While some of our staff are skilled engineers, we’re by no means an engineering firm. The whole experience with this season’s students, though, has my wheels spinning. I wonder if there’s a way we could create a program for engineering and packaging students, showing them what products are easier to recycle as scrap commodities than others; how recycling starts with design.

I’ll keep you posted.

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