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Developments in Sustainable Design

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Environmental Studies
Wordcount: 3193 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Sustainable Design

Recycle Design or Design Cycle

Introduction: The topic is composed of 4 different areas related to Circular economy and Sustainable development. The First body talks about the current scenario we are facing in the real world. How the world is coping with issues related to Plastic wastes and the consequences world is facing. It will also show few facts, figures and an introduction to Plastic. The second bodies cover the area which is producing the most of plastic wastes. Why we human beings are failing to do sustain resources properly. It will talk about Circular economy and what we need in it to improvise. Third body will take you through the misconception human beings have related to sustainability and circular economy. What are the things that we need to understand clearly to succeed the idea of Sustainability? It shows the difference between the liner economy and circular economy. And what are additional points we can add to the circular economy to make it more effective at Industrial world level. And the last fourth body covers the solutions from world renowned brands and creative minds. It will talk about the how different creative people with their ideas and solutions are coming up to reduce or stop the usage of plastic and can reduce the impact on the environment. They try to completely change perception of packaging into a solution.


(Body Paragraph) Brief Introduction:According to Patrick ten Brink (2018) Currently we are living in an era of Plastics. Where everything is mostly made up of plastic. We are surrounded by plastics and producing million and millions of plastics everyday globally and most of the plastic waste in the ends up in oceans. Plastic has retained such a place in the world that it is one of the important material for everything and crucial element to generate economy. But due to issues like not collecting the plastic wastes properly, recycling, reusing or improperly handling these plastic wastes lead to harm the environment and making environmental, health, social and economic impacts globally. To deal with these issues individually is too high. Recently with the recognition of these harmful impacts, there are certain steps are taken to deal with it and how to reduce the plastic waste which is generated every day. A new approach of thinking or ideas are brought top deal with the situations.


Plastic is a petroleum-based product and it has many variations and categories made by combining with different elements. Plastic is a big area of research. They are used in every possible products manufacturing from small object like buttons to big products like furniture’s, vehicles parts, housing etc. The reason we are so dependent on plastic is because of behaviour and it is cheap. It is durable, light weight, can be easily sourced, manufactured or mould into any kind of shape or structure. It takes millions and millions of years for it to decompose or destroy (Richard A, G. and Bhanu, K. ;2002). Plastics that were produced many years ago are still available on earth in some or other different form. And among all different kind of industry sector, it is the product packaging sector which is playing the bigger role in terms of generating wastes. From morning till night, we came across so many different products that are made and packed in plastics. If we look at the reports and journals from the past 5 years or 10 years data, we will come to know that it was the packaging industry that is producing the larger amount of wastes every year and it is growing again and again. They have not gone anywhere. Plastic was a great innovation because of its durability, light weight, multiple options etc. But now it has become like an alien substance, which we humans has created ages ago but now we can’t destroy or don’t know properly how to handle it with no or less side effects. It is like an alien agent, and now it has started damaging our earth, affecting our lives. If we see it from an Industry perspective, yes, it is definitely a great product but hard to get rid of it.

Concern: It is not that we human beings do not want to recycle plastic wastes, it is that we do not know how to do it properly, to recycle them or reuse them. Especially with the packaging industry which is producing the maximum amount of plastic wastes every year.

And out of that big chunk of plastic wastes only a micro amount like 5th of all plastic is recycled properly. Rest all the plastic remains same or other form of waste lying on earth somewhere. China is the one of the biggest producer of plastic in the whole world. It produces half of the world’s plastics either from the recycled plastic or virgin plastic. And with changing time, evolution, development and increase in day to day life needs. The usage of plastics also increased and vice versa the production of waste. It was never that people were not bothered about the earth or the environment or wastes they are generating and reduce it. They were concerned. Research (Ayres, 2016) states that the idea of a circular economy is not new and was given a theoretical foundation in the field of industrial ecology in the early 1990s. Robert Ayres introduced the idea of industrial metabolisms: The ambition level of an industrial ecology is to achieve an ideal state, one which resembles nature most. Such a system would be characterized by “complete or nearly complete internal cycling of materials”. Ayres also observes that such a closed cycle of flows can only be sustained if its external energy supply lasts. A logical consequence of striving to create closed loop systems is that there are only two possible long-run fates for waste materials: either recycling and reuse, or dissipative loss (for resources such as for lubricants or detergents). But there are other things as well that made consumers feel comfortable even after seeing those problems. That problems comes from our design system. It is proven through various social experiments, research and data that people are concerned about the problem.

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Myth and Reality Check: So, every time when people see a product with a recycle logo on the label. They just think that someone is out there who is doing their work for them and they know how to do it. Once a normal human being sees a trash can or trash bin, he/she just drop the waste in them without even thinking if the waste really goes into that bin category or it can be recycled or not. They just assume either someone or government is doing it for them and they have nothing to worry about. They are not aware how their wastes are being treated or where they been taken or what is their life cycle after they are being used. All they know that they are fulfilling or playing their role perfectly by helping the wastes reaching the bin. There is a need to better understanding attitudes for the terms like recycle/reuse/sustainable (Sofia, R. and Sandstrom, G. O. ; 2017). Since the beginning of the Industrial era till today, most of the products that are created are based on linear economy: we find and use resource to make product and dispose when work is done. But recently with the increased concern of pollutions and wastes, we are trying to move to circular economy which is new way to deal with wastage and aims to use product, its components and material used fully during the complete lifecycle. Achieving the maximum output or recovery of material after the product reaches the end of the lifecycle in terms of recycling. According to Ellen Macarthur (2018) “The circular economy as “Looking beyond the current “take, make and dispose” extractive industrial model, the circular economy is restorative and regenerative by design. Relying on system-wide innovation, it aims to redefine products and services to design waste out, while minimising negative impacts. Underpinned by a transition to renewable energy sources, the circular model builds economic, natural and social capital.”

According to Sophia (2017) disruptive innovations and radical changes are needed in the field of sustainable development. And to bring these changes must be done in huge scale starting from the large industries. And circular economy is the key chain that brings together the sustainability and business development. By introducing new services and business strategies, the value of sustainability can be increased and will lead to sustainability innovations. Reducing the usage of resources for making products while still allowing the industrial companies to reach their target and values is what sustainability development requires. If companies follow these rules and reach their targets by reducing the usage of resources and increasing product value, sustainable business will bring a huge impact on the society. Reduced impact on the environment will be the result of bonding between the product delivery system and services. According to Cyrill Gutsch (2017, Feb 22) from Parley design house “Even if they get recycled, on the way there they are leaching out toxic substance, and they are creating harm. It is a permanent journey of destruction that these materials cause. We understood at Parley that materials like fossil-fuel based plastics are not fit for an idea of circular economy.” To most extent it is positively true. Plastic is a material that cannot be destroyed or recycled easily without sacrificing something in exchange. To some way it is going to harm us. So, it is better that we should look for solution that completely takes us away from the Plastic material and help us managing the plastic that is already out there in the world.

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Innovations: Although the world is already following Circular economy. But due to certain errors like human error or design system error, the Circular economy is not working effectively (R. Markus A. and S. Antoinette Van. ;2018). If we try to understand the whole Circular economy design, we will realise that there is nothing wrong in the Circular economy system. It is the mentality or the wrong perception we are living with that everything is going to be alright because someone else is doing it for us. If we want to save earth and make the Circular economy system work properly, we must be more responsible towards our responsibility and a little bit of tweaking in the circular economy system.

Few of the big sectors like the packaging sectors, clothing segments brands and most country governments are coming forward and has started taking major steps in recycling plastic waste or reducing plastic waste to minimise the impact it is causing. For example, big clothing brands like H&M has developed a material called Bionic made absolutely from recycled plastics from the Oceans and they are using it for making garments. Similarly, footwear brand Adidas with Parley Design house has created a footwear completely made of plastic waste extracted from the oceans. According to Sarah (2016) Why even we have to think for recycle the packaging of the product. Can we just finish it by eating or other solution? One of the innovation that is happening in the industries is reducing the carbon footprint of the packaging and making it biodegradable or edible. Professor name David Edwards from Harvard in 2012 came up with the idea of wrapping or coating food by an edible element to reduce packaging waste. Then another company from United States started a brand called Loliware that uses seaweed to make flavoured cup. Then another company name Skipping Rocks Lab came up with product called Ooho. Water packed in gelatinous algae film to reduce the plastic pollution. And the packaging can be eaten away after the water is consumed. The Ohoo design team says that it is easy and cheap for them to make healthy and hygienic process to make this kind of packaging, but they are still not sure how to keep it in stores. As per the design team, packaging does not have to be thrown away. It could be either transformed into something else or passed on to someone else. For a sustainability driven design firm called Crafting Plastics studio based in Berlin Germany, the owner Vlasta Kubusova and Miroslav Kral, any kind of material or resource we use should not be long lasting for ages or or damage the earth environment when used. With this thinking in the year 2015 they made a team scientist Pavol Alexy from the Slovak University of Technology to make a completely biodegradable plastic. And after year experiment and research they came up complete sustainable eye wear range made out from the extract of cornstarch polylactic acid and PHB which is another polymer made by organisms.

Now, furniture giant Ikea has decided to swap out polystyrene for mushrooms, with its new “fungi packaging” – although not intended for consumption, this new eco-friendly alternative, developed by US company Ecovative, can biodegrade naturally in a few weeks.

Packaging has been given a new lease of life by several designers, who have turned otherwise useless receptacles into useful items.

And there are many other solutions like these are coming up which are inspired from nature (Biomimicry).

Conclusion: The main purpose of this paper was to identify the loophole in the design cycle of sustainability or Sustainable design or Circular economy. If we human being are already aware of the problems or consequences of generating wastes especially in the terms of plastics, then why are we failing badly in the implications and having hard time saving the Earth. The essay went through various research levels from primary research of wastes like which is the biggest sector producing maximum amount of wastes, are they being treated properly. And even if the concerned agencies or government is doing proper work, then where we are lagging failing every time. Are people aware of the issues or the amount of wastes created every year or what happens to their waste when they are decomposed?The essay also focused on the specific category-Plastic for secondary research and tried to understand it better. And after reading about all the alternate solutions like edible plastics, easily biodegradable plastics that are happening in the field of sustainability design, due to high cost manufacturing process or completely dependent on the nature. It might again develop a loophole in the system in future because we cannot depend on the natural resources fully. Some day they also might be on the verge of running out. So, we need to break the mentality or the myth that our waste is completely treated properly and we human beings are fine. It is basically different attitudes of consumer towards the sustainable packaging and it is going to be a big challenge in the future as well if we do not correct it right now. We have to develop a either a new design system that helps people to understand the recycle design system better and help them recycling or we need to make some modifications to the circular economy or sustainable design system.



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