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January 17, 2014

Design With Intent: Sustainability in Product Design

Every time I go to the store to purchase a product, I’m struck by how many examples of products and packaging I see that are virtually impossible to recycle because of choices made in the design of the item. Why even last week I spent a day with a major retail’s Sr. Leadership and Buyers, walking a store reviewing the many products and packages that simply fall short.

I’m sure we’ve all seen countless examples of the tons (literally) of valuable material lost due to products being difficult to recycle based on what they’re made of, the limitations of the recycling infrastructure or being difficult for the consumer to recycle easily. Things like packaging, toys and office supplies, for example, can all pose challenges to effective recycling, composting or disassembly based on choices made in design.

Because WM is the nation’s largest recycler, we see and manage all of these difficult-to-recycle materials on a daily basis. So who better than WM to help our customers make educated decisions when designing their products to help ensure a positive second use cycle?

Sustainability Services (WMSS) understands how this issue affects both our customers and WM and is working with our customers to Design with Intent. The concept of Design with Intent is an approach to product design that takes practical recyclability of products into consideration in the design phase, helping ensure that valuable resources are recoverable after a product’s initial usefulness by being mindful of material selection, ease of disassembly and recycling infrastructure capabilities.

Our consultants work to advise customers on strategies to design better products through intelligent material choice, understanding how our material recovery facilities (MRFs) work, and how the market can effect what can be recycled. Helping our customers Design with Intent has three key benefits that line up very nicely with our Three Pillars:

Knowing the Customer –Understanding the customer so well that we become a strategic partner in the design of their products and expand our business opportunities

Extracting More Value – Working to phase out undesirable material selection can lead to sustainability success and more valuable material entering our MRFs

Innovating and Optimizing – Partnering with our customers to promote innovative design choices that differentiate them in the marketplace and communicate true commitments to sustainability

This is an exciting opportunity for us to make a valuable impact on our customers and improve the recyclability and the quality of the materials we manage. As WMSS continues to work with customers to Design with Intent, I hope that you and I both see more opportunities to recycle and less frustration when we’re out at the store.

To learn more, please visit our suststainabilty website here: