As a Product design student I developed a strong interest in sustainable design and joining the Ecodesign Centre team was the opportunity to expand on my area of interest beyond ‘making things out of cardboard’ and understand what sustainability means in a professional world. I met with Frank the morning of my arrival to discuss areas of interest around design for the circular economy. We quickly decided that it would be good to investigate the life cycle of the disposable ball point pen, and the surrounding sustainable issues and possible opportunities to improve them, hopefully raise some interesting points along the way. My preconceived ideas on the investigation were that the ballpoint pens (the Biro) are clearly an unsustainable product and my goals were to find out how unsustainable, and what could be done to make it sustainable. During my time here however it became clear that in the world of sustainable design there is no simple black and white, and solutions are not straightforward. To gain a real understanding I had to analyse the life cycle in more detail. Luckily for me there is a wealth of knowledge on BIC® the company that revolutionised the biro and in particular their Cristal ballpoint pen (it’s got its own Wikipedia page). It made for some interesting reading as according to Wikipedia, up to 2004, 100 billion Cristal ball point pens had been manufactured, and as BIC® themselves admit their ’products are generally not designed to be recycled’, as the singular product is not significant enough in weight and volume to be considered recyclable (Societe BIC, 2005). It begs the question ‘where are they all now?’ To put that into context, if you were able to collect and stand each pen end on end, there would be enough to reach the moon and back 20 times and would weigh approximately 590,000 tonnes.
Around 30 delegates representing the European Commission, United Nations and a host of other international organisations and governments attended the successful launch of the European Network of Ecodesign Centres (ENEC) at Mechelen on the 28th of November.
The event included a keynote from Michael Bennett (Policy Officer-Ecodesign, DG Enterprise and Industry, European Commission) on the critical role ENEC can play in supporting the Commission meet the challenges of a more resource efficient Europe. On behalf of the Commission Michael congratulated the founding members for taking the initiative in launching this first of its kind interregional collaborative network, inviting ENEC to work closely with them in ensuring Europe is at the forefront of stimulating demand for ecodesign.Tweet Read More
European based Ecodesign Centres lead the way in making ecodesign happen through launching a first of its kind interregional collaborative network.
Given the challenges of a more sustainable Europe five prominent Ecodesign Centres and their respective regional governmentshave joined forces to create a collaborative platform to generate, disseminate and apply ecodesign and life-cycle thinking knowledge. This first of its kind agreement has been termed the European Network of Ecodesign Centres with the network launch, in partnership with the European Commission, at Ovam in Mechelen (near Brussels) on the 28th of November.
The respective founding centres are Ecodesign Centre (Wales), in partnership with the Welsh Government, Basque Ecodesign Center part of Ihobe (Basque Country), Ovam Ecodesign (Flanders), Effizienz-Agentur (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Pole Eco-conception (Rhone-Alpes).Tweet Read More
An approach to matching the environmental and economic attributes of sustainability, described as the ‘circular economy’, sounds a simple enough shape to manage. We put things (materials, products) into either technological or biological cycles or ‘loops’ and they flow around until we decide to pluck them out and reuse them. The proviso being we avoid mixing them up (co-mingle) and don’t put anything in which is nasty.
Of course the reality is these ‘loops’ are more akin to those of a rollercoaster carrying buckets of water, with centrifugal and centripetal forces doing their best to promote spillage. The key difference though is we carefully design the rollercoaster to give the impression of an insecure ‘open loop ‘experience, while providing a safe return journey; whilst with products we often seem to place little thought to the design of the journey. Perhaps this is because the lifecycle loops for most products are so numerous and include loops within loops; for example the ‘manufacturing loop’ of a plastic part may require several chemical/thermal/mechanical interventions for each of its material ingredients. The notion of a ‘fractal economy’ might be more appropriate?
We have all experienced the annoyance of failing products. We are pretty much guaranteed that everything we own will break at some point in the future. Some large things we will keep repairing for as long as possible (houses, cars etc.) mainly due to the expense of buying new ones. However, a lot of products that break on us are quickly thrown away. Whether this is due to lack of time, knowledge or skills to repair them or just because it’s easier or cheaper to replace it with a new product. But what if we started to repair?Tweet Read More
Through investing in design Welsh Industry can contribute to a more sustainable society. This is best evidenced through looking at businesses designing products with more innovative features and reduced environmental and social burden. One such example is Orangebox, a Welsh furniture design company with whom the Ecodesign Centre have worked closely since 2007. Orangebox are a sustainability focused and design-led business whose innovative products are multi-award winning. Orangebox as a business are committed to investing in ecodesign which considers the full life cycle impacts of products and processes (from raw material extraction to end of life treatment).Tweet Read More
Different materials need different waste treatment approaches, some are only reusable and not recyclable, others are not suitable for energy recovery but can be recycled through reprocessing.
This is the first in a series of briefings I am writing, under the theme ‘Materials Matter.’ The briefings are linked to my PhD research with Orangebox, which is based on the role of materials in design and innovation processes.
Read the full research briefing on Orangebox’s website here
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In the last week we responded to two Welsh Government consultations – one on the Innovation Strategy for Wales and the other on the Sustainable Development Bill.
To support these consultations, we produced a position paper on how these policy areas are linked and what role ecodesign plays in these links.
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On Wednesday I attended an Insider breakfast event hosted by Douglas Friedl at the Mercure Holland House Hotel, Cardiff. The event was well organized with a particularly good turnout from Welsh industry. Structured around a panel debate, to launch Made in Wales Awards 2012, the audience had been invited to submit questions in advance. The questions covered a broad range of issues including skills, infrastructure and the wider perception of Wales as a brand. My question centred on the panel’s view of environmentally and socially responsible design within their vision of sustainable growth. Their responses to my question are summarised here.