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Design for Disassembly, Zero Waste and Sustainable Prosperity
Alex Steffen, 26 Jan 05

Our allies at IDFuel have a great piece up Built For Breakdown
, about the myriad ways in which companies are beginning to plan for the full life-cycles of their products, including their eventual dis-assembly and the return of their resources to productive use:

"Pop bottles and plastic grocery bags are quickly being outpaced by consumer electronics and household accessories as the dominant waste stream in the developed world. Since these new waste sources are complex assemblies that do not lend themselves to reuse or recycling, simply planning end-of-life strategies are not enough. We need to develop products which acknowledge that they will someday die.

"The increasing disposability of consumer electronics and appliances is troubling environmentally, and socially. But it is not going un-addressed in the design world.

"Major consumer electronics companies -- from Panasonic to Phillips -- are re-vamping their lines to make disassembly for recycling, and the remaining disposal as easy, cheap, and safe as possible. Features like low or no-lead solder, modular electronics boards, snap-fit rather than glued joints, and included instructions for disassembly make it easier for the dead product to have a new life. Whether as a repaired item with an easily replaced piece, a consumer disassembled and recycled piece, or one that can easily be scrapped out by more professional disassemblers, either locally, or in Asia. Design for disassembly is hot, and definitely needed.

"And it's not just electronics companies who are in on the action; Steelcases's new Think chair is a paragon of fixability and re-recyclability, with nearly 100 percent of the chair composed of easy to recycle or replace single-material pieces. There are all kinds of opportunities for this preemptive strike on waste, and not just in the assembly of the products. Steelcase set up three different factories around the world so that each of its markets could be served locally in order to cut transport costs, and support local economies."

Check out also their sharp piece on cutting into the waste stream, perhaps even creating a Zero Waste economy. Add these ideas to the ongoing effort to make computers and other electronics more sustainable, and we'll be taking huge strides towards guilt-free and sustainable prosperity.

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