Quick Question: Designing with ‘end-of-life’ in mind

In this “Quick Question” we ask Amazon’s director of EU Circular Economy and the British Plastics Federation’s senior recycling expert: How can we facilitate a better relationship between post-consumer waste and design to ensure products/packaging are designed with “end-of-life” in mind and the resources and waste sector can supply the right materials? 

Rich Loretto: Director, EU Circular Economy, Amazon:

“Designing with ‘end-of-life’ in mind is a key aspect of our packaging design work at Amazon. We’re proud that our customers in the UK now receive packages in more easily recyclable materials such as flexible paper bags and cardboard envelopes, rather than single use plastic delivery bags.

“We support our sellers to do the same through our Frustration-Free Packaging programme, which encourages vendors to ensure their packaging is fully recyclable and easy to open.

Innovation guided by science is essential if we are to resolve the many challenges faced by the industry

“The same goes for our own products and the products we sell. We are committed to helping our customers to reuse, repair, and recycle their used products. For example, through Amazon Second Chance, customers can recycle, repair or trade in their items, as well as shop for like-new and refurbished products.

“Amazon Renewed offers refurbished products such as electronics and home appliances which are tested to work and look like new.

“Innovation guided by science is essential if we are to resolve the many challenges faced by the industry. The first step is to fully understand those challenges, and our ongoing partnership with WRAP is helping us identify and gain a deeper knowledge of the barriers to a circular economy.

“Partnership is key to overcoming those barriers, and we work collaboratively with the industry to develop creative solutions. One example of this is Project Holy Grail, an initiative that aims to simplify the process of sorting packaging waste through the use of digital watermarking technology. We’re proud to support the project in its goal to enable better sorting and higher-quality recycling rates in Europe.”

Helen Jordan, senior recycling expert, British Plastics Federation

“Traditionally, products would have been designed for their function and aesthetics but without consideration for end of life. A lot of work has already happened in this area to educate the supply chain and there are tools and guides available to help assess the recyclability of products.

“The British Plastics Federation (BPF) have Packscore, which allows you to see on a scale of A-F how recyclable your product is at an early stage in the design process. It has just undergone an upgrade so at each stage you can see your grade allowing you to understand the impact of your decisions on the recyclability of your product. Recyclability by design guidance by RECOUP also provides a great resource and BPF worked with them on summary document.

“There is much better across supply chain collaboration taking place. All part of the supply chain are sitting down together to understand each other’s issues and develop solutions whether this is changing design or developing new technology.

There is misinformation shared which can make it hard for companies to reach the best solution for the environment

“However, the focus of this has been around packaging and we need to ensure that all sectors are working together. Further work is also needed to make sure the right people are being reached within companies. It is often the sustainability teams engaging with the supply chain rather than the design or marketing team.

“Unfortunately, there is misinformation shared which can make it hard for companies to reach the best solution for the environment. Material switching is a good example. Companies may undertake this with the best of intentions because of the information they have seen, but in reality their decision could have a negative impact on the environment.

“It needs to be ensured that good, science-based information reaches companies. Customer perception also shapes decisions and companies need to be brave to do what is best for the environment and take their customers on the journey with them to understand the decision.”

Both Rich and Helen will be speaking at this year’s Festival of Circular Economy. For more information and to book your place, click here. 

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