End-of-life warranty

 

Sustainability strategy is becoming more innovative as supply chain issues become more apparent. It is important to consider potential second (and third, fourth and so on) lives for products – recycling is one thing, but designing products so that they are reusable or easily able to be repurposed is even more responsible.

                   

The ‘cradle to cradle’ view of a product’s life-cycle has emerged, seeing companies working with suppliers throughout the chain to ensure a life to their products and packaging beyond their primary use. An obvious way forward is proper recycling, however this requires behaviour change from companies, suppliers and consumers alike and so poses a challenge. 

It’s a sad fact that companies cannot rely on consumers to recycle their products and packaging. The upshot of the general population’s laziness, however, is that companies themselves must take more responsibility for where their products end up or move on to once ‘used up’. The idea is that they never become ‘used up’ but rather have the same use again and again, or move on to having another use that holds just as much value.

 

Experts are coming out and saying that sustainability and resource scarcity are questions of design. For many, sustainable design solutions are a lot more attractive than reduction of output. Rather than just tackling the problem of doing more with less, why not design products to provide nourishment for something new – biological or industrial. Take a look at this great TED talk on Biomimicry to see how designers and scientists are taking cues from nature in their innovations.

 

William McDonough and Michael Braungart, authors of The Upcycle, write about everyday objects that are being imagined not just to sustain life but to grow it, envisioning a future where our role is not just to protect the planet from human impact but to redesign our activity to improve the environment.

 

Here are a few of our favourite upcyclers (let us prove that upcycling not all handbags made from soda can pull tabs!).

 

  • Icestone – a US company making durable and attractive surfaces from recycled glass and Portland cement.
  • ReKindle – a social enterprise in New Zealand transforming waste wood into covetable furniture, a creative response to the Christchurch earthquake of February 2012.
  • Terracycle, a company which repurposes waste of just about any kind that is sent in from individuals and collected from companies. The brands that partner with Terracycle are even paid for their trash. Australia is the latest in the 26 strong list of companies in which TerraCycle has a base; the focus here is on recycling cigarette stubs.

 

While some critics of upcycling say it only postpones the inevitable – the rising popularity of this waste strategy is raising people’s awareness of the issue and motivating companies to develop more eco-friendly products and services.