What product would you like to see redesigned to improve its sustainability?

Unilever has halved the size of its deodorant cans to cut their carbon footprint. What product would you like to see redesigned to improve its sustainability?

Sophie Thomas

‘With the World Economic Forum telling us that 90 per cent of all the products we consume become waste within six months, and when nearly a third of 2011’s profit warnings issued by the FTSE 350 were attributed to rising resource price, the business case to redesign everything into more resource-efficient circular systems is very compelling. I would like to see new closed-loop system thinking for toothbrushes, coffee cups, houses, washing machines, laptops… The list is endless, the challenge is great and the economic drive is building.’

Sophie Thomas, co-director of design, Royal Society for Arts

Jeremy Myerson

‘Office lighting is my number one target for a redesign to improve sustainability. Currently most offices are over-lit to meet the high lux levels in the engineering codes dictated by manufacturers trying to sell truckloads of light fittings. This approach is wasteful in terms of energy, and psychological and physically uncomfortable for people who must work amid high levels of bland, uniformly distributed light. Let’s think more creatively about how we light our workplaces.’

Jeremy Myerson, director and chair, the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design   

Jeremy Myerson

‘Many products look deceptively harmless and natural – but are actually unnecessarily damaging. Many body scrubs used for exfoliating dry skin actually contain tiny polyethylene beads that end up in the sea, where they are ingested by fish and birds.  There are plenty of biodegradable materials that could be used instead – or what’s wrong with a gentle brush or rough cloth that can be used again and again.’

Dorothy MacKenzie, chairman, Dragon Rouge

Jeremy Myerson

‘I’d like to see the UK adopt a system similar to the “Pfand” system used throughout Germany for the reuse of soft drink and beer bottles. For those who haven’t been to Germany and sampled any of their fine bottled beverages, when you buy a number of drinks you pay a tiny deposit for each bottle, which is refunded when you return the empties on your next visit. The bottles are then sent back to the brewery and refilled and the cycle continues. To me a system of reuse rather than recycling or halving container sizes makes more sense in the longer term.’

Chris Waggott, multidisciplinery designer

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  • Graham Walker November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    In the 70s I remember returning bottles and bottle tops to the shop for a refund. Of course we have bottle banks now. Milk was also widely delivered in reused bottles, not anymore..and why aren’t those milk cartons recyclable?

  • Tim Masters November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

    @Graham: I remember those days too. In fact a couple of years ago, while a colleague and I were putting a creative proposal together for a drinks manufacturer, we suggested doing that very thing: offer returnable deposits. The client rejected the idea on the grounds that it was cheaper to buy new bottles than to sort, transport and sterilise old ones.

    Incidentally most bottle banks in our neck of the woods don’t separate glass by colour. Instead it all goes into one giant hopper, and gets gets crushed together to be used in road-building material.

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