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New products are appearing on the market every single day. With each new product comes a new challenge in terms of recycling and circularity. With such challenges in mind, Ruud Balkenende discussed how design is of utmost importance in achieving a circular economy. Ruud is the Professor of Circular Product Design at the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) and the project leader of Work Package 2 (WP2) for the Design of the products and materials. He will be supporting the project partners in developing a Circular Design Framework considering the possibilities to upgrade, refurbish, disassemble the three product types over multiple lifecycles. WP2 will develop design strategies for modular products which will be easy to maintain, dismantle, repair and reuse.

ECOBULK - TU Delft - Design for RecoveryThis element of ECOBULK is especially important for the implementation of United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 which calls for sustainable consumption and production patterns: This will require “a systemic approach and cooperation among actors operating in the supply chain, from producer to final consumer”. Ruud emphasised the fundamental importance of design in achieving circularity, arguing that designers are in a central position to improve the sustainability and recyclability of bulky composite materials and develop longer-lasting, higher quality products by insuring that all designs consider the recovery process.

“A design that does not consider recovery is incomplete” was one of the key messages from his presentation.The key outcomes of the design framework of ECOBULK should be products with multiple life-cycles with minimal loss of quality and value in each cycle, minimal energy input, maximum value retention, a modular design for easy disassembly and platforms that allow the products to be as reusable as possible.

The circular design framework will not be possible without a strong cross-collaboration with all project partners. Specifically, a new business model is vital for getting this right as industrial design is largely driven by business objectives – it is important to remember that the circular economy is as much about closing economic loopholes as it is aimed at preserving materials. There also needs to be stronger cooperation throughout the value chain and the framework will demand that designers jointly develop solutions to creating circular products.

Over the course of the project, TU Delft will cooperate with several project partners in WP2 to analyse the baseline scenario, design circular strategies and tools and finally review the materials and manufacturing technologies.

Look out for our upcoming interview with Ruud Balkenende on the ECOBULK website!