Design for and Design from Recycling: The Key Pillars of Circular Product Design
The annual global plastics production increased from 1.5 million tons in 1950 to 348 million tons in 2018. While society has benefited tremendously from this plastics revolution, the negative environmental impacts are becoming increasingly visible. As a consequence, the European Commission adopted a Europe-wide Strategy for Plastics in the Circular Economy in January 2018. The Strategy has the ambition to transform how plastics and plastics products are designed, produced, used and recycled in the future and it comes with challenging targets for the next years. One of its goals is to ensure that all plastic packaging put on the market is recyclable by 2030 (design for recycling). Another target is to ""ensure that by 2025 ten million tons of recycled plastics find their way into new products on the EU market"" (design from recycling), against less than 4 million tons in 2016. The main goal of this paper is to present design strategies that can help increase the uptake of recycled plastics in product design. It focuses on the sector of electrical and electronic equipment and the results are the outcome of ongoing work of the H2020 project PolyCE. The paper is organized in three parts. First, it presents the main challenges for recyclers and designers to improve the circularity of plastics. Specific challenges at each step of the development process are highlighted. The second part of the paper introduces the new Drop-In ApproachTM, which provides a practical three pillar tool for product developers to start designing with recycled plastics. A complexity flowchart helps designers to focus on priority parts and a six step material approval approach allows them to gradually reduce the risk that is linked to using recycled plastics. The Look & Learn pillar shows the power of small-scale demonstrators. The last part of the paper puts theory into practice and presents case studies that were developed within the PolyCE project and follow the design strategies.