Over the last three decades, environmental issues have become a significant concern for all societies. With growing awareness of environmental issues, for instance, Air Pollution, Global Warming, Water Pollution and Ozone Depletion, sustainability has been gaining increasing attention in recent years. (Roy, R. 2000) However, according to Tseng, M. et al. (2012), currently it is generally not sustainable that models of consumption and the Manufacturing systems which based on traditional activities and business technologies. Therefore, sustainability has captured the attentions of most designers, regardless of their specialism. In other word, designers have to consider the sustainable aspects of their practices in order to adapt to a sustainable future. The choice of recycled materials used to make product is important, allied with the way in which they are used. (Manheim, J. 2009) The literature review is based upon the examples from Internet and books that were found to have relevance to the topic of sustainable product design and recycled materials. And this literature review will aim to bring together the most key examples and developments in recycled materials and sustainable product design from recent years in order to establish what the present state of the art is. (G.D. Hatcher et al., 2011) In the final part, it will demonstrate the significance and limitations of sustainable product design made from recycled materials and from this provide suggestions as to where the research should go next.
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Sustainable product design and materials recycling
A sustainable product design also known as eco-design, “green” design or design for environment, and it depends on two things: what types of designs are made, and in what quantity they are made (Matthew, S. and Andrew, S. 1997). In other words designing with recycled materials is actually depending on the type of waste objects that you have access to. While from the environment aspect, Lennart (2007) suggested that a sustainable product is a product, which will give as little impact on the environment as possible during its life cycle. And sustainable products applying environmental criteria aimed at the prevention of waste and emissions and the minimization of their environmental impact, along the material life cycle of the product. (Weenen, J. C., 1995) Sustainable product design can be characterized by several factors; for instance, recycling materials through the design for environment is one of key factors, which includes design for remanufacturing, design disassembly and for sustainability. Employment of cleaner production principles of preventive strategy and source-oriented approaches are equally essential in sustainable design practices (Tseng, M. 2012). It is generally useful to define a sustainable product or at least to have some measures of “degree of sustainability”. It is agreed that the principles of eco-design can be considered the running of resources in the environment.
Recycled materials include collecting a large number of already made products and materials from various sources and reducing them to other standardized raw materials objects; original product form and function is totally discarded or partial changed. The main consideration of sustainable product design made from recycled materials is to facilitate the reduction or changing process, and involves approaches such as (1) modifying the materials mix, (2) recycling for disassembly, (3) designing for recycling process compatibility, and (4) adopting materials coding systems. (Fuller, D.A. and Ottman, J.A. 2004)
Designer and artist worked with recycled materials
Julia Manheim is a famous designer and having gained an international for her work. In the early 1970s, her concern for the disposal of materials started and found that she was fond of collecting piles of Guardian newspapers and disliked anything to going to waste. (Manheim, J. 2009) She collected various waste materials in her life such as chocolate wrappers, burnt film, toothbrush heads, plastic carrier bags, etc. then made them into creative jewelries. Her research is about how to recycle existing materials in different approaches to give it a second life and a new meaning. Accordingly, this might be achieved by altering it, using it in different ways, cutting it up, adding to it, covering it up, or casting it in another recycled material. These are all methods of reusing and reinterpreting what is here already, rather than having to start from scratch. Also she started to develop a sensibility for looking at and seeking the potential in old product and then changed it into the new one. It seems that intervention can be minimal, and materials do not always need to undergo a total transformation to become to a new thing; they just require handling with sensitivity and an awareness of their inherent properties. The product made from recycled materials can be equally unusual and creative if the recycled elements are easily identifiable. It depends on how inventively the materials are reused and put together. (Lea, V. 1997)
Fashion designers are also chasing this eco-trend, take Gary Harvey, for example, he can recycle waste materials from his life such as a piece of old jeans, newspapers, some trench coats, army jackets or wedding dresses and turn them into new amazing dresses with eco-conscious. Gary Harvey is the former Creative designer of Levi Strauss and Dockers Europe director for Levi’s. An impressive creation was made from cans, cardboard boxes and bottle tops. People admire him about designing a surprising dress made from old jeans, newspapers, or even juice packages. Some people may have a question about the wearability of a designing dress out of waste materials. However, this dress is an environmentally friendly dress, which people can be worn for special occasions. It will help people spread the information of helping the environment and with unique style. His most recycled materials were from everyday life which made me consider how everyday domestic objects, found around the house or at a local shop, can be used to make sustainable product. In addition, I started pay attention to the relationship between my recycled objects and fashion.
The Nike shoes are successful example of an eco-design product which is environmentally and sustainably. Steve Nash who is the All-Star Guard for the Phoenix Suns and Nike has made up a team to produce the Nike Trash Talk, the first Nike performance basketball shoes completely produced from manufacturing waste materials. The emphasis of this design was aim to create a sustainable, high-performance basketball shoe. Nike used manufacturing waste materials, such as, leather materials and synthetic leather waste from the products factory floor for the upper replace using toxic adhesives; used zigzag stitching to sew the upper together. The mid-sole was made up of scrap-ground foam from factory production materials. Nike recycled waste materials from their own manufacturing-with a low-toxin, environmentally preferred rubber to make an outsole which contains 96% fewer toxins. Even the shoelaces and sock liners were made from environmentally preferred materials. Finally, the shoes were packaged in a fully recycled cardboard shoebox. The company tends to encourage the designers to design more sustainable products.
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Significance and limitations
Girlamy (2008) suggested that recycling materials and transforming them into new sustainable products is a win-win trend. Designers and artists who designing sustainable product out of recycled materials are taking an object at the end of its useful life and changing it into a helpful raw material to make another new object. (Manheim, J. 2009) As a consumer, you are helping the development of eco-friendly environment when you support businesses that remanufacture products such as clothing and furniture made from recycled materials. Scientists are finding our planet’s landfills are filling at an alarming rate; many of the landfills filled with waste materials will remain for thousands of years. As a consequence, it will be disastrous if we do not follow the trend of using sustainable product made from recycled materials. Material recycling reduces the demand for raw materials and thus protecting the environment and preserving resources. It reduces the pollution of air and water allied with energy usage. The consumer in turn is rewarded by gaining some products which are special and exquisite when they choose a sustainable product with recycled materials. This is because, products made from waste materials are often handcrafted and manufactured by a fair trade organization that provides a fair wage and favorable working conditions for their workers.
But there are clearly very few truly sustainable designs. As discussed above, humans have received a considerable number of benefits from sustainable product design, and the demand for sustainability to designer is increasing. However, sustainable product design has its limitations. In particular, an eco-friendly advantageous change in one aspect of a Green design may have contrary environmental influences elsewhere in its life cycle which may outweigh any benefits. For example, the avoidance of potentially toxic materials may decrease a design’s lifetime and therefore require it to be replaced more frequent, consequently, eco-designs may consume more energy and generate more pollution than it saves. (Roy, R. 2000) The designers should not only consider the sustainability in their design activities, but also need to grasp the economic, technical, social and cultural background of their designs in various areas. In other words, designers need to consider long-term benefits rather than current benefits. Sustainability should also be of concern not only to the designers, but also to every company or organization. This is because, sustainable product design is an integrated design process driven by whole-system thinking.
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