Recycling Materials in Design

By Taylor Roberts Icon

Most manufacturing companies are concerned with environmental impact but they are mostly focused on the manufacturing operations and the operating life of that product. Most companies don't give much thought to what happens to a product when it has reached the end of life, instead they simply rely on the scrap recycling industry to deal with that problem and, up to now, recyclers have done a good job. However, as time goes by and new materials and technologies are developed, the challenge that recyclers face in safely and economically recycling those products to materials at reentry stage grows ever more difficult.

What should manufacturers aim to achieve in relation to recycling of materials?

To overcome the difficulties of materials recycling there are several stages of industrial process involved:

  1. Design - For economical recycling of materials, the design process is critically important. One of the basic principles of good industrial design is that a process creates no waste. That means all elements in the design can be reused. This is an extremely cost-effective approach to production, too, because the reusable materials reduce the cost of acquiring more materials, waste disposal, and environmental costs associated with non-recyclable materials.

  2. Production - The production process, too, can be streamlined and enhanced to ensure a smooth transition back into the production line for recycling. This involves a series of basic steps and organizational adaptions:

    • Creation of collection points for used materials;
    • Efficient collection; and
    • A straightforward series of industrial processes for materials recovery leading directly to new products.


  3. Distribution - Recycled products should have a direct distribution feed back into the market, to recover costs, and ensure effectiveness of the recycling process as a commercial proposition. This series of steps operates as a cumulative series of savings, accompanied by cashflow. It's also profitable, covering recycling costs, adding value, and achieving commercially effective returns on the recycled products.

What is the basic idea of recycling?

The basic idea of recycling is to reuse all materials, reduce waste, and reduce carbon emissions and pollution created by production. Recycling in its modern form is new, and has developed a lot since inception. The original form of recycling included collection of materials like paper, metal, some plastics, and other easily recyclable materials which could be turned into commercial products.

The new form of recycling is a cradle to grave approach, covering all aspects of product life, measuring environmental impacts, and creating holistic product designs on this basis. The cost benefit effects of recycling have been startling, and have vindicated the new approach with steadily improving measurable results for money saved, resources saved and cumulative waste cost avoidance.

Practices that have employed recycling in their design materials.

Many whole industries have taken up recycling, and the extent of the new recycling models can be seen in organisations like ISRI, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. Recycling now includes process, brokerage and consumer recycled materials.

Most of the world's top companies and institutions are currently involved in designing materials for recycling:

  1. Electronics and appliances: Toshiba, Samsung, Sony, IBM
  2. Motor vehicles: Renault, Volvo, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche
  3. Packaging: Sustainable Packaging Alliance
  4. Recycling design initiatives: Carnegie Mellon Institute
  5. TVs and electronics: Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Recycling is the way of the future. It's the best, most effective, response to global issues and consumer demand.

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