With an abundance of product design guidelines available in the plastic industry, how do we know what’s good or bad? PCEP has brought the value chain together and developed three overarching principles for polyolefin design, to provide designers with confidence that the guidelines they use will advance the circular economy.
We all know that product design is a critical step in developing a circular economy. Designers and manufacturers of plastic products rely on design guidelines that are usually application-specific, and rightly so. Different applications demand different product features and functionalities as well as different collection and recycling systems. Widespread commitment to improving product environmental footprint, however, has created a plethora of available product design guidelines which can be overwhelming.
PCEP’s three new principles aim to help product designers evaluate whether the application specific guidelines they’re using are helping to create a circular polyolefin economy or not.
The first overarching principle focuses on ensuring a product is recyclable in practice. It states that ‘all design guidance should be science based’, this means backed up by recycling protocols derived from widely accepted testing methods, as well as being compatible with an existing technology, or an emerging one. In other words, you need proof that the product is designed-for-recycling.
PCEP’s second principle says that ‘design guidance must review product functionality from a circular economy perspective’, ensuring that the product is designed following the approach of ‘prevent, reduce, reuse, repair/refurbish, remanufacture, recycle and, alongside it all, regenerate nature’. Within this mindset, PCEP encourages designers to use as much recycled polyolefin as possible.
The third and final principle is that ‘guidance should promote the purest possible streams of polyolefins’, using design to remove (as much as possible) anything that would potentially reduce the quality of the recycled polyolefin.
Our next step as PCEP will be to carry out our own assessment of the most popular design guidelines currently being used by the polyolefin industry and analyse whether, in our opinion, they meet the overarching design principles we’ve developed. It will be done fairly and openly, in full consultation with the organisations concerned. We’ll give them the opportunity to talk us through their guidelines and answer any questions we have. We want it to be a very constructive dialogue.– explained Brian Lodge, UK Design Director for Berry and chair of PCEP’s Innovating for a Circular Economy Working Group.
PCEP welcomes feedback on the experience of applying these overarching principles in practice.
PCEP is a forum for all organisations and stakeholders in the polyolefin value chain to exchange ideas, showcase projects and work together to maximise innovation and value, so advancing the circular economy. PCEP is committed to transforming from a linear to a circular economy based on three principles: designing out waste; keeping products and materials in use; and recycling into high-quality new raw materials.