Waste reduction, recycling and stewardship have reached a new level in Australia and are squarely on the national agenda for action.
In response to the waste crisis, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has earmarked $20 million for a product stewardship investment fund, and appointed an Assistant Minister for Waste Reduction and Environmental Management – the Hon. Such commitments hold great potential if advanced in a timely and coordinated way.
It is also vital that waste avoidance is made a priority as opposed to overly focusing on recycling. Creating new patterns of consumption is key, as is the involvement of creative disciplines to create sustainable workplaces and lifestyles.
The dominant approach to our use of materials and the creation of manufactured goods is best described as a ‘take make waste’ approach to consumption and production. This has resulted in variety of environmental challenges including the depletion of non-renewable materials, the use of toxic substances in some products, and the landfilling of materials when products and packaging reach the end of their life.
In many ways design is the key to shaping a sustainable future that includes greater attention to waste avoidance, reuse, repair, repurposing and refurbishment. Design-driven solutions with a return to more durable products, fixtures and fittings can contribute to a more circular approach to production and consumption.
ABC TV’s War on Waste program has highlighted these issues and the need to change our behaviours with a view to avoiding waste from the outset by making better choices and thinking carefully about our relationship with products and materials.
Of course there are noteworthy examples of designers, studios, suppliers and brands that have adopted a more explicit design for sustainability approach that starts to think about product durability, closed loops, design for reuse and repair, dematerialisation and the utilisation of benign or renewable materials that are free of hazardous substances.
Designers across all domains have the opportunity to demonstrate specific solutions that maximise the value of waste-free spaces and products. Even more necessary is the redesign of systems and services for new business models that enable sharing, leasing and dematerialisation.
There is little doubt that design is an essential tool when it comes to designing out waste and using materials with a greater sense of stewardship and care. The Circular Design Guide produced by the Ellen Macarthur Foundation provides an abundance of information, guidelines and case studies that can help equip and engage most designers.
As a discipline that brings a creative and technical dimension to utility and function, there is no doubt that design can create buildings and interiors that are socially responsible, environmentally restorative, economically sensible and, of course, culturally desirable.
For more information visit Circular Design Guide or Fairview