Product Design for Recycling

Product design is the first important factor for recycling to be successful and effective in saving the environment and benefiting the economy.

Much of the difficulty inherent in recycling arises from the fact that most products are not designed with recycling in mind.

In order words, the design of some things are such that they are hard to recycle, or simply cannot be recycled. This means that even if a community is motivated to recycle as much as is possible, it would be limited by the things that can be recycled. Such circumstances hinder success in recycling.

With the increasing threat of global warming, carbon footprint, depletion of the ozone layer, and ultimately the melting of the arctic ice, industries must rethink the basic principles on which businesses are functioning. Greater efforts have to be put into protecting the environment while achieving economic growth.

For recycling to be possible in the first place, design of products must have recycling or environmental protection as an end-goal in mind.

This requires the industries to think a step further, beyond satisfying their customers’ needs for products, to what could happen to the products after they are consumed. Product design with recycling in mind is one of the important factors for success in recycling.

Designing products with recycling in mind is a relatively new practice.

Much investment into research and development of green products, or products that are environment friendly, biodegradable, completely recyclable, or decomposable, is still needed.

There are two important questions that need to be answered in product design.

First, is the product recyclable and/or biodegradable?

Second and the more important question, can the raw material from which the product is made of be used to make new products, after recycling?

If the answer to both questions is in the affirmative, then this is a green product and should certainly be encouraged to be manufactured, marketed, and sold.

Other than product design, the manufacturing process matters too for success in recycling.

Whatever by-products that could be diverted back to the manufacturing process should not be wasted. Manufacturing processes should be designed to produce as little harmful wastes as possible. Whatever waste that cannot be avoided should be dealt with properly.

For example, the waste could be rendered harmless first before disposal.

But it is not enough for products and their manufacturing processes to be environmentally friendly.

They have to make economic sense as well, to be sustainable. There needs to be a holistic understanding of the various costs and benefits. For example, cardboard packaging for food products is more easily recycled than plastic, but it is heavier to ship and may result in more waste from spoilage.

As more and more product manufacturers become aware of the impact they have on the environment, and are driven not only by profitability, but also the safety and recyclability of the material and manufacturing process used, we can look forward to new frontiers in recycling and environmental protection.

Hopefully, it is something we can see happening soon enough before our responsible actions on the environment becomes irreversible. Every one of us must start doing our part now!

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