Circular Economy: the Role of Design in Product Life-Cycle

The sustainability and circularity of a product are defined not in the development phase but in the embryonic one: design.

Design involves two main actors such as the entrepreneur and the designer. The former must strongly desire innovation aimed at product sustainability; the second must have a deep knowledge of raw materials and a dense network of subjects ranging from producers to recycling systems.

Design is a synergistic moment between all those who will have the task of following the life of a product (Product Life-Cycle Management).

It should not be forgotten that a product is not composed only of itself and its intrinsic life in relation to man but also of a series of small but highly polluting substances that accompany it in its life at the end of use, as waste.

In terms of environmental impact, a product has a production cost linked to the choice of raw materials, therefore – in a circular perspective – it will be necessary to certify its origin and the ethics of their production.

The choice of materials is a fundamental point for the design of a sustainable product that meets the requirements of the circular economy in its development phase.

What Is Changing In Industrial Design:

  • the human approach has shifted from damage repair policies (end-of-pipe approach) to increasingly preventative interventions;
  • today it’s clear – even if with little awareness of the world of design practice – what are the environmental advantages of the so-called natural materials: they are usually more renewable than those of synthesis and generally more biodegradable;
  • the packaging: it is an element that does not ignore the product. When it contains food it has a life equal to the product it contains, but when compared with the life of a durable product, it becomes a ridiculous fraction of it.

What Does It Take For the Products of the Future to Become Part of a Circular Economy?

The relationships listed below between Design and Production, Marketing and Recycling Systems, are fundamental to ensure that the new product:

  • become appealing to the public;
  • is used correctly to ensure use and effectiveness over time
  • is disposed of at the end of its life in the right way to be recycled.

The relationship between the consumer and the circular economy cycle cannot be taken for granted: even the most motivated subject, faced with obstacles beyond a certain extent, renounces their principles.

We know well that this is not a single insignificant gesture but that it is instead thousands of wrong gestures, the result of the wrong products, which fill the seas with tons of plastic waste every year.

In conclusion, design becomes THE important moment in which the right strategies are put in place so that the product has the maximum possibility of re-entering the cycle of the circular economy.

Federico Rossi

Design Director

Born in Borgosesia (VC) in Italy, Federico Rossi has developed since 1999 a considerable number of projects both for European and Asian based manufacturers. In the role of Design Director, he is in charge of following our team of Senior and Junior Designers starting from the concept generation, concept development, feasibility, modeling up to the engineering process. His most important Design Activities in Europe and abroad have been done in the following design fields: lighting, furniture, electrical appliances, faucets, bathware, office chairs, baby car seats.

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