Next generation of product designers tasked with turning the final point of delivery for e-commerce into the first stage of recycling.
Sustainable packaging solutions provider, DS Smith, is collaborating with product design students at Cardiff Met University to tackle the “crucial recycling issues” affecting households and supply chains across the UK.
As e-commerce grows across Europe by nearly 7% each year, according to Statista market research, the UK holds third place worldwide for most parcels delivered each year at 1.9 billion packages.
The amount of packaging entering consumer waste streams is set to grow year on year, putting “more pressure” on existing recycling infrastructures, DS Smith says.
With changing consumer shopping habits, meaning more boxes at home, and recycling infrastructures already under pressure we need to make sure we are well equipped to deal with the challenges ahead
At a time when the latest figures show a decrease in the UK household recycling rates, down from 45.5% to 45% in 2018, the company says it has “never been more topical” to find a solution.
DS Smith has partnered with the next generation of product designers at Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales, to “inspire collaborative and creative thinking” whilst taking into consideration the role of technology, social media, the supply chain, and partnerships.
Wales currently recycles more household waste than any other UK country, with an overall recycling rate of over 54% – ahead of the 2020 European 50% recycling target.
Sustainability and recyclability were two major factors included in the brief presented to the teams by Mat Prosser, Head of Strategic Business Development and Transformation for Europe, and Tom Campbell-White, European Strategic Development Director at DS Smith.
First mile of recycling
Tom Campbell-White, European Strategic Development Director for DS Smith commented: “We set a brief to turn the last mile of delivery into the first mile of recycling and by doing so, to keep corrugated cardboard packaging in the supply cycle for longer.
“While it’s true that the recycling rates for paper-based packaging are the highest at 79% we cannot afford to be complacent. With changing consumer shopping habits, meaning more boxes at home, and recycling infrastructures already under pressure we need to make sure we are well equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.
“So, for us it was a great opportunity to engage with bright minds at a world-class university and bring new thinking into our business. It’s been really inspiring.”
In mid-February, four groups were selected to develop their exciting new ideas further and will present again digitally to the judging panel from DS Smith and Cardiff Met, with a final winner chosen later in the year.
Working with industry to tackle real problems is a great way for the students to build their portfolios and prepare for life after university
The winning team will see their concept put into DS Smith’s Research & Development facility with the potential to become an essential element in the drive towards averting a “recycling crisis”, DS Smith says.
Encouraged by the initial feedback and potential from the partnership with Cardiff Met University, a first for DS Smith, it says there is “great scope” to expand a similar programme across Europe linking up with the future’s brightest product designers, engineers, technicians, scientists and environmental champions.
Dr Clara Watkins, Programme Director, Product Design Department at Cardiff Metropolitan University: “Working with DS Smith has been a great experience for our students.
“The brief set by DS Smith allowed the students to truly understand the impact of sustainability and circular economy within DS Smiths business model.
“Working with industry to tackle real problems is a great way for the students to build their portfolios and prepare for life after university.”