I previously wrote an article about some of the ‘less bad’ sustainable design practices that companies can explore when transitioning into a more ethical approach to creating products. As product designers and engineers we have the potential to make a difference and we are making our stand. We have a responsibility to educate our clients so that they can make better decisions regarding their brand’s perception to their customers. If we don’t change how we create products then the issues we are seeing are going to get worse, not better. Leaving the planet worse off for future generations.
Our first action has been to create a set of guidelines that we must stick to when working with our clients in the development of new products. The guide serves to remind us that plastic has become an easy way out and pushes us to consider alternative materials and manufacturing processes.
We can’t change the world by thinking as we did previously, we need to reinvent ourselves.
NPD plastic usage guidelines
1 – When considering the design of a component is there another solution before resorting to plastic?
Plastic is a wonder material for designers, allowing us to create bold, forms and textures with a choice of mechanical properties. It is often wrongly assumed at the start of a project that a particular product will be constructed a certain way, because that’s how it’s always been done. It doesn’t have to be that way. Let’s challenge ourselves to be different and better at the same time.
2 – If plastic has to be used, can it be recycled easily at the end of the product’s life?
It’s our responsibility to make sure that the products we create are designed to be easily and efficiently disassembled, repaired if required and most definitely recycled. We can’t control what happens to a product in the real world at the end of it’s life, but we can at least make sure we have made it easy to recoup the resources that went into making it.
3 – Don’t blend plastics, they will never return to their original compound.
Over moulding is the industry standard method for adding grip, texture and contrasting colours to plastic mouldings. However, once the chemical bond has been established between the two polymers, they will never revert back to their original compounds. It’s unethical to promote these kind of manufacturing processes, so let’s draw our line in the sand.
4 – If plastic cannot be avoided, can we form a stronger emotional bond between the product and the user so that they are less likely to throw it away?
Every product invokes an emotional response with the user, no matter how simple it may be. Let’s make sure we are designing great product experiences that promote continued usage over the lifetime of the product. Turn single use, into multi use.
Moving away from decades of standard practice is going to be tough and education will be critical in getting more business leaders aligned with sustainable design principles.
We are making steps to bring about change, what are you doing?