UK invests £1.25m to inspire ecodesigns

20th September 2012


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  • Waste

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IEMA

UK businesses are being offered up to £25,000 of funding to explore how they can redesign their products to improve resource recovery and reuse

The latest support programme from the Technology Strategy Board aims to encourage firms to “close the loop” with materials and, ultimately, help the UK’s transition to a more circular economy.

The board is offering companies grants totalling £1.25 million to complete feasibility studies on redesigning goods, components and services in a way that will help to keep materials in the UK over several life cycles. This would lower environmental impacts and improve the country’s resilience to potential shortages of key resources – such as precious metals – in future, says the board.

In an interview with the environmentalist about the programme, the board’s head of sustainability, Richard Miller, said: “The challenge is that 80% of the environmental impacts of a product are locked in at the design stage. It’s very easy for a designer to decide to make a product out of a certain type of plastic, for example, and to not think about if it’s re-manufacturable or easy to recover for recycling.

“We’ve realised that it’s really important we involve designers at an early stage.”

The board has partnered with the Royal Society of Arts to create “the great recovery” project, with the competition as its centrepiece. It will also include a series of workshops and events aimed at improving designers’ awareness of the environmental impacts of their choices.

Funding is available in two rounds, the first of which opens on 29 October and runs until 12 December. Firms can apply individually or as a consortium to tackle a specific design issue. Successful companies will have to produce a report detailing their approach and the benefits of the new design.

The launch of the new competition coincided with calls for the European Commission to do more to engage with waste businesses when it develops resource efficiency policies.

“On the first anniversary of the ‘Roadmap to a resource efficient Europe’, we would like to see the commission do more to involve the waste and resource management sector in its plans for delivering a resource efficient future,” said Roy Hathaway, Europe policy advisor at the Environmental Services Association (ESA), the UK’s waste trade body.

“The waste and resource management industry makes a very important contribution to resource efficiency [and] has a wealth of practical and commercial experience in recovering and recycling secondary raw materials, which EU policymakers need to take on board.

“If we are to play our part in helping businesses and consumers to use resources more sustainably in the future, we and other industry sectors need more direct involvement in helping to deliver the aims of the resource efficiency roadmap.”

Following the government reshuffle, Lord de Mauley has been appointed Defra’s new parliamentary under-secretary for resource management.

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